The prevalence of many civilization diseases is increasing. One of the most well-known of these is diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the prevalence of both type I and type II of diabetes increased from 108 million to 422 million over the last three decades. With this increase in the cases of diabetes, doctors have also reported more co-morbid diseases such as kidney failure, blindness and a heightened risk of a stroke. However, there are strategies we all can implement to change those numbers. One of the most important is raising awareness.
What Causes Diabetes?
Both types of diabetes are caused by a malfunction in the pancreas. This can occur in two different ways: the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body struggles to absorb the insulin that it produces. Insulin is an enzyme that helps our bodies break down sugar and absorb it via the blood. If these vital processes are disrupted, the blood sugar levels get abnormally high, leading to a condition called hyperglycemia.
Type I Diabetes
There is no known cause of this type of diabetes; however, we know for sure that it is not caused by diet and lifestyle. This is much less common of the two types, with only 8% of the UK population suffering from it. With Type I diabetes, sugar is still broken down into smaller molecules and diffuses into the bloodstream, but it can’t diffuse further from there into the cells for use, because the body doesn’t produce the necessary insulin. The immune system attacks pancreatic cells preventing the organ from producing the enzyme.
Type I diabetes can appear suddenly, especially at a younger age. One of the most common symptoms is polyuria (i.e. excessive urine production). Other symptoms include weight loss, hunger and problems with vision.Type I diabetes can be managed but unfortunately, it can’t be cured. Patients suffering from this condition have to closely monitor their blood sugar levels and administer insulin when needed. Moreover, they are at higher risk of developing other diseases caused by hyperglycemia.
Type II Diabetes
The majority of people (95%) with diabetes suffer from Type II diabetes. It is largely caused by a high sugar intake, sedentary lifestyle, and is a common side effect of obesity. In this case, the body produces insulin but it doesn’t use it effectively. Therefore, the sugar levels remain elevated in the bloodstream. The good news is that this condition can be treated to a large extent, but even more importantly, in some cases it can be prevented. Before developing Type II diabetes, patients are diagnosed as pre-diabetic. This means that their blood sugar levels are elevated, but in a way that can be prevented. When this problem is spotted early, development of Type II diabetes can be hindered. It can be done by reducing sugar intake, increasing levels of physical activity, and losing weight if needed. Patients with Type II diabetes can take steps which might lead to remission of their condition. This implies a state where their blood sugar levels are normal enough for them to stop taking their medication.
Why and How Do We Prevent Diabetes?
The high blood sugar levels have influence on many processes in the body, which over time, can cause development of other co-morbid diseases including pancreatic cancer, muscular and nervous system diseases, dental problems and an onslaught of others. The prevention of diabetes begins in childhood. Kids should be encouraged to make healthy food choices, stay physically active and monitor their health in the future. As adults, it is important to get blood work tests at least once a year, consult a doctor if any symptoms of diabetes are spotted, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Diabetes UK. “Type 1 Diabetes.” Diabetes UK, 2022, www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/types-of-diabetes/type-1.
Diabetes Uk. “Diabetes UK – Know Diabetes. Fight Diabetes.” Diabetes UK, 2021, www.diabetes.org.uk/.
World Health Organization. “Diabetes.” World Health Organization, 16 Sept. 2022, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes.
Healthwatchkingston.org.uk, 2022, www.healthwatchkingston.org.uk/sites/healthwatchkingston.org.uk/files/causes-of-diabetes_1.png.