12 November 2010

Diabetes: the silent killer

Know the facts, spread the word: diabetes is one of the foremost health concerns in world - both developed and developing - with approximately 285 million people affected.


Diabetes is one of the foremost health concerns in world - both developed and developing - with approximately 285 million people affected currently. Globally diabetes is on the increase and the number of people living with the disease is expected to reach 438 million by 2030.

One of the main reasons for the large number of people affected by diabetes across the world is lack of awareness and lack of knowledge. Frighteningly, there are generally no obvious symptoms and as a result the disease may not be diagnosed in time or at all. Lack of awareness as well as failure to understand the seriousness of the problem is therefore of great concern because, not only can the disease be lethal, but its’ many possible complications can be devastating to the individual and extremely costly for society.

'I choose to live'

In an effort to increase awareness around diabetes, Novo Nordisk has partnered with South African performer Tshepo “Howza” Mosese, who has type 1 diabetes, for the music video launch of his latest song I choose to live, in time for World Diabetes Day.

Armed with the right information and understanding, individuals living with diabetes can manage the disease effectively and live “normal” lives. Type 2 diabetes can even be completely avoided in 80% of cases! Knowledge is power, as they say - ensure that you know at least the basics.

Types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes, also known as “insulin-dependent” diabetes, results when the pancreas does not produce insulin and the body has no ability to regulate blood sugar levels. People with type 1 diabetes must take replacement insulin to regulate their blood glucose. Living with type 1 diabetes requires diligence in following the medication regimen set out by their doctors. The complete lack of insulin in the body leaves people living with type 1 diabetes particularly susceptible to side-effects and complications, including potential blindness, and permanent nerve damage in the extremities, sometimes leading to amputation.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes do produce insulin, however their bodies have either developed insulin resistance, or they do not produce enough insulin to adequately control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes (also know as “adult onset diabetes”) is the most common form of diabetes and is considered to be reaching epidemic proportions. While many people think type 2 diabetes is not as serious as Type 1 diabetes, the long-term side effects are the same and strictly adhering to prescribed treatments is vital.

Another type of diabetes that many are not aware of is gestational diabetes, which affects women without previously diagnosed diabetes. Gestational diabetes affects up to 10% of pregnancies across the globe and like the other diabetes types, its symptoms can easily be missed. It is believed that the hormones produced during pregnancy increase a woman's resistance to insulin, resulting in impaired glucose tolerance. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are typically at a higher risk of problems including low blood sugar, jaundice, childhood obesity and even type 2 diabetes later in life. Women with gestational diabetes are at increased danger of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus after pregnancy, as well as having a higher incidence of pre-eclampsia and Caesarean section.

Who is at risk of developing diabetes?

Diabetes may be a genetic problem that simply manifests over time or it can be caused by lifestyle. Living for years on a diet that causes blood sugar spikes and average blood sugar levels much higher than is healthy, could cause the body’s blood sugar regulation system to burn out, resulting in insulin resistance. On the other hand, it is possible even for fit, healthy adults to find themselves diagnosed with diabetes, without reason.

While type 2 diabetes can possibly be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices, there is currently no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Some people will have no symptoms before they are diagnosed with diabetes. Others may notice the following symptoms; fatigue, hunger, unquenchable thirst, frequent need to urinate, noticeable loss of weight, blurry vision, loss of feeling in the feet, dry skin and mouth, flushed face, fruity breath, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, headache, nervousness, shaking, sweating or weakness.

What to do:

  1. Be aware, even if you think you are not at risk of developing diabetes, arm yourself, your family and friends with information
  2. Know what the symptoms are and get regular medical check-ups
  3. Eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise
  4. If you think you might have diabetes – see your doctor immediately
  5. If you have diabetes, stay on top of your treatment, diet and exercise regime.
  6. Lifestyle changes and proper medical monitoring and care can keep diabetes from becoming a death sentence
  7. Join Howza on the “I Choose To Live” Facebook page and follow @ichoose2live on twitter
  8. Help spread the word

The biggest risk is ignorance of the facts. Choose to live!

(I choose to live - press release)

- (Health24, November 2010)

Read more:

Diabetes condition centre
November 14 is World Diabetes Day
Diabetes to triple by 2050
Kwaito star stands up for diabetes


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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