By Dr. Cory Couillard
Diabetes is a devastating global public health threat that currently affects 366 million people according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Over 550 million will suffer by 2030 if immediate action is not taken.
November is diabetes awareness month and the IDF leads a global campaign of awareness, education and prevention through the World Diabetes Day (WDD). WDD is celebrated by over 200 member associations and is active in more than 160 countries.
The World Diabetes Day will help save and improve the lives of millions of people on the 14th of November 2012. The comprehensive educational campaigns will help educate the public of what diabetes is, the risk factors and specific lifestyle recommendations that are needed to curb the destructive condition.
The global burden is yours
A staggering 50 percent of diabetics do not know that they are diabetic. The nearly silent disease is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation. Diabetes is responsible for 1 death every 7 seconds and accounts for more than 4.6 million deaths per year.
The rate of developing diabetes has increased by 700 percent in the last five decades and can be traced to personal habits. A proactive lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, avoidance of tobacco and maintaining a normal body weight can prevent, delay and even treat the effects of the most common causes of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes pandemic
Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 90 percent of all cases of diabetes. It has also been called non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is rarely used as many children and teenagers are now developing this once adult condition.
Unknowing victims are commonly diagnosed incidentally through blood or urine tests associated with other active health conditions. The diagnosis is commonly associated with obesity, insufficient physical activity, smoking and poor diet.
Early symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:
• Bladder, kidney or other infections that are more frequent or heal slowly
• Increased thirst
• Increased urination
The first symptom may also be:
• Blurred vision
• Erectile dysfunction
• Pain or numbness in the feet or hands
Complications of type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, life-long condition that requires careful monitoring and control. Without proper management a person can suffer from very high blood sugar levels that can result in long-term damage to various organs, nerves and tissues.
If one’s type 2 diabetes isn’t well controlled, there are a number of serious or life-threatening complications that one can experience including blindness, kidney damage, poor circulation and nerve damage.
Diabetes causes blindness
The leading cause of blindness in the world is diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes may already have abnormalities in the eyes related to the development of diabetes. As diabetes is a progressive disease, uncontrolled diabetes will significantly increase the risk of serious complications. It is important to control not only blood sugar but also blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent its progression.
Poor blood circulation and nerve damage
Damage to the blood vessels can increase the risk of suffering a stroke and heart attack. Neuropathy and hardening of the arteries can lead to decreased sensation and poor blood circulation in the feet and hands. This will increase the risk of infections and ulcers that can in turn significantly raise the risk of amputation.
Diabetic treatment and prevention strategies
There is no one cure for diabetes, but effective treatment and management strategies do exists. One should be able to lead an active, healthy life and reduce the risk of complications with proper self-care.
Good diabetes care means keeping one’s blood sugar levels within the normal range. The following are the most effective strategies.
Exercise saves lives
Exercise is an absolute necessity in the management of type 2 diabetes. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity per day has been shown to balance blood sugar and manage symptoms of diabetes most effectively.
One of the most effective techniques is starting a walking programme. It is important to reduce the risk of injury by stretching or warming up 5-10 minutes before and after a walk. Ensure that you have proper shoe wear, maintain good posture and stay well hydrated. Your walks don’t have to be long and strenuous to be beneficial.
An effective gauge of progression is determining how much physical activity and walking you currently do. Begin slowly and add five to ten minutes per week. It is perfectly acceptable to take breaks along the way if you are significantly out of shape.
Physical activity is also one of the most important aspects in maintaining a healthy body weight. Weight loss improves insulin control, keeps blood sugar in check and reduces harmful cholesterol and blood pressure that is linked to heart disease and stroke.
An exercise regimen without nutritional modification has been shown to be less beneficial in clinical studies. One can’t exercise, eat rubbish and expect results. It is important to avoid foods that are high in sugars, harmful saturated fats and limit alcohol consumption while engaging in an exercise programme.
Managing diabetes with diet
We experience the power of nutrients every day. If we choose poor choices we can see the impact they have on our energy levels, immunity, weight, sleep patterns, blood sugar and how we overall feel. When we place quality nutrients in the body, the body knows how to absorb and assimilate them. The proper nutrients will enhance how our bodies are able to respond to stress, manage blood sugar levels and control diabetes.
To prevent or reverse diabetes — reduce sugar intake, eliminate processed food items, reduce portion size and increase consumption of vegetables.
Sugar is commonly found in processed food items that are in a bag, box or can. Even canned vegetables have added sugar. Eat as many vegetables that are fresh and not processed. Cereals, breads, pastas and other sugar staples should be limited as they pose the greatest risk to effective blood sugar control.
Smoking contributes to diabetes
Quitting smoking can reduce the progression of diabetes by 30 percent. Smoking adds harmful chemicals to your body and inhibits your body’s ability to heal. Smoking is one of the leading cause of inflammation that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death.
One can significantly reduce the damaging effects of diabetes by implementing a three-step process. First, know and understand how to effectively manage and prevent diabetes. Second, take responsibility for your health. No one else can exercise, eat or quit smoking for you. Third, set goals and actively monitor blood sugar levels to ensure the effective management and prevention of diabetes.
Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization’s goals of promoting diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide.
Visit www.idf.org/worlddiabetesday for additional information, to get involved or to see if there are events near you. Visit http://www.idf.org/diabetesatlas/ for 2012 statistics.
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