Diabetes 101

Diabetes is a disease that impairs your body’s digestion of sugars. When we eat carbohydrates – such as potatoes, rice, bread or even a bar of chocolate – your body breaks them down into glucose. Glucose is the fuel needed by the body to function, and is your brain’s main source of energy.

There are several types of diabetes. The chronic forms of the disease are known as Type-1 Diabetes (also known as ‘Insulin-Dependent Diabetes’) and Type-2 Diabetes (or ‘Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes’). Gestational Diabetes (which occurs during pregnancy) and Pre-Diabetes are more reversible forms of the disease (both of which will be covered in other articles). This article will focus on the chronic presentations of the disease.

Let’s begin with Type-1 Diabetes, the less common form. This type usually inflicts children and young adults, where the pancreas stops producing insulin, or produces very little of it. Insulin is a hormone that enables your body’s muscles and tissues to take glucose from your blood and to use it for energy. Without insulin, the glucose remains in your blood and causes high blood sugar – namely, diabetes. Various factors can cause Type-1 Diabetes, such as genetics and certain types of viruses. Until date, there is no known cure of this type of the disease; however, with the proper management people with Type-1 Diabetes can lead a normal and healthy life through dietary management and the use of insulin injections. Insulin injections will enable the body to normalize its sugar metabolism and will provide it with the insulin it lacks.

Let’s move onto the more common form, Type-2 Diabetes. This type usually affects adults and is a result of being overweight, particularly in the abdominal area. This type of diabetes occurs when your body does not respond to insulin, and hence, your body’s cells are unable to use the glucose as fuel effectively (this is known as ‘Insulin Resistance’). It can also be a result of producing less insulin than needed by the body. Similarly to Type-1 Diabetes, this leaves you with high blood glucose levels. The similarity in the two types is having high blood sugar; however, the causes are different. Since Type-2 Diabetes is related to lifestyle and weight control, it is preventable, whereas Type-1 is not. Type-2 Diabetes is usually managed through dietary controlled medication. The Pancreas – the organ that produces insulin – may eventually tire and no longer produce insulin at all, requiring the Type-2 Diabetes patient to take insulin shots.

There are well known symptoms to elevated blood sugar such as:

  1. Increased thirst and urination.
  2. Blurred vision.
  3. Extreme hunger.
  4. Unexplained weight loss.

If you are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, and you are used to consuming convenience foods, you may be at risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes. Be proactive and get your blood sugar regularly assessed by a qualified physician. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Staying away from this dreaded disease and preventing the development of Type-2 Diabetes isn’t necessarily a difficult task. Here are a few things you can do to help live a healthier lifestyle:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight by keeping your BMI between 20-24.9 kg/m2.Body Mass Index (or BMI for short) measures body weight in relation to your height, and categorizes you accordingly. Calculate your BMI now and see where you fall. Below is an example for you to follow.BMI = Your weight (kg) / your height squared (m2)
    Category BMI
    Underweight <18.5
    Normal 18.5-24.9
    Overweight 25-29.9
    Obese >30

    Example:

    If you weigh 60 kg and have a height of 1.66 meters, your BMI is calculated as follows:

    BMI = 60 / (1.66 x 1.66) BMI = 60 / 2.76 BMI = 21.8

    A BMI of 21.8 falls under the ‘normal’ category. It’s important to note that this formula doesn’t take into account your build or muscle mass, and may not be entirely accurate on its own; however, it’s a good indicator as to which weight category you fall under.

  2. Stay physically active. This will help you stay fit and fight away that belly fat! For a more in-depth look at exercise, refer to article entitled “Exercise: Is It Really Necessary?” under ‘His & Her Health’.
  3. Improve your diet. Try your best to include nutritious, fiber-laden foods to your diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Cut down on empty calories such as candy, cream-filled cakes and pies, and carbonated beverages. These provide lots of calories and very little nutrients – if any at all!

If you feel that you are at risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes, start making a change today. You can prevent this disease by setting yourself small, achievable goals to lead a healthier lifestyle. This could be as simple as deciding to take a 20-minute walk three times a week; choosing to replace your bar of chocolate for fruits; or even simply aiming to lose 0.5 kg in the next 2 weeks. It’s never too late to begin making changes, so start today!

Disclaimer:

This article offers general advice and may not be applicable to you. Diabetes is a serious disease with potentially life-threatening effects. It is important to have regular checkups with a qualified physician. If you believe you may be at risk of having or developing diabetes, share these concerns with your physician to ensure that you take the necessary precautions.

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