We may all have a general idea that diabetes is chronic, lifelong, and basically bad news… but how many of us really understand this disease and its impact on our health?Let’s recap a bit, to make sure we’re all on the same page…
What is diabetes?There are three (3) main types of diabetes:
- Type 1: Your body makes insulin but cannot use it well. This is a problem because you need insulin to take the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat and turn it into energy for your body. You need to take insulin every day to live.
- Type 2: Your body does not make or use insulin well. You may need to take pills or insulin to help control your diabetes. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: Some woman may get this when they are pregnant. Even if this goes away after the baby is born, these women and their children have a greater chance of getting diabetes later in life.
How many people have diabetes?Statistics currently stand at 415 million persons worldwide, which is approximately 9 to 10% of adults aged 18+ (World Health Organization) It is expected that this will increase to 642 million by 2040 (International Diabetes Federation). Diabetes is predicted to rise by more than 50% in the next 10 years, and to become the 7th leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030. (World Health Organization)
Can you die from diabetes?The simple answer is yes. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a number of serious health problems, which can lead to an untimely death. Complications of diabetes include:
- Cardiovascular disease – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose and other risk factors can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke
- Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy) – this is caused by damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys, which cause them to become less efficient or fail.
- Nerve disease (diabetic neuropathy) – this is caused by damage to the nerves when blood glucose and blood pressure are too high. This can cause problems with digestion, erectile dysfunction and other problems. The most common area this takes place is in the feet, which may eventually result in lower limb amputation.
- Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy) – this can be caused by high levels of blood glucose together with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This can result in reduced vision or blindness.
- Pregnancy complications – these can be caused by high blood glucose during the pregnancy, and can lead to the foetus gaining excess weight, trauma to the child and mother, and a higher risk for the child to develop diabetes later in life.
How can you tell if you have diabetes?Some people have diabetes and are not aware of it, so it is important to visit your doctor as soon as possible if you spot any symptoms below.
High Blood Glucose (Hyperglycemia: 200mg/dL or higher)
Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia: 70mg/dL or lower)
|Extreme thirst||Sweating or cold, clammy skin|
|Need to urinate often||Dizziness, shakiness, tingling feeling|
|Increased tiredness||Hard, fast heartbeat|
|Blurred vision||Confusion or irritability|
|Dry skin||Weakness or fatigue|
How can you avoid complications of diabetes?Day-to-day diabetes healthcare is up to you. This includes:
- Choosing what, how much and when to eat
- Being physically active
- Checking your blood glucose regularly
- Taking medication as prescribed
- Going to your medical appointments: dentist, diabetes doctor, diabetes educator, dietitian, eye doctor, foot doctor, mental health counselor, nurse, nurse practitioner, pharmacist
- Learning all you can about diabetes