What do you know about diabetes?

According to a local expert, many Malaysians tend to have a ‘tidak apa’ attitude when it comes to dealing with diabetes.

According to a local expert, many Malaysians tend to have a ‘tidak apa’ attitude when it comes to dealing with diabetes.

It’s a disease almost as old as man, with the first written records back in the first century BCE.

The term diabetes mellitus is derived from the Greek word diabetes, meaning siphon, and the Latin word mellitus, meaning honeyed or sweet.

It’s rather self-explanatory, because at the heart of diabetes, excess sugar is “siphoned” into blood as well as the urine.

The World Health Organization has published the following facts on diabetes:

  • In 1980, there were 108 million people with diabetes; this number rose to 422 million in 2014.
  • Worldwide, the incidence of diabetes among those over 18 years of age had risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014.
  • An estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and another 2.2 million deaths were attributable to high blood glucose in 2012.
  • Almost half of all deaths attributable to high blood glucose occur before the age of 70 years.
  • WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030.

It’s obvious that diabetes is posing huge problems worldwide, and Malaysia has not been spared this phenomenon.

Local scenario

According to Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Mustaffa Embong, consultant endocrinologist and Executive Chairman of the National Diabetes Institute (NADI), an estimated 3.5 million Malaysians suffer from this chronic illness, half of whom may not know that they have the disease (until it is too late).

However, there doesn’t appear to be a sense of urgency when it comes to dealing with this problem.

“For many Malaysians, having diabetes is no big deal. Almost everyone knows someone – a relative, a friend, a neighbour, with the condition. And for those people with diabetes, except for a few, they do not appear to be affected by it, nor are unduly worried about having the disease.

“There is also the prevailing belief that diabetes is not serious, as most times, there are no symptoms and there is no need to pay attention to it. If at all a serious complication occurs, it is just unfortunate for the other person. The attitude is, ‘it will not happen to me’,” observes Prof Mustaffa.

The reality is very different.

“Untreated or poorly-managed diabetes can be associated with serious, and sometimes, fatal complications. Over the short term, people with diabetes may develop blurring of vision, numbness of hands and feet, frequent infections, or go into coma (and possibly die) due to diabetic ketoacidosis.

“Long term, diabetes is the commonest cause of adult blindness, and the commonest cause of non-traumatic amputations.

“In Malaysia, about half of heart attacks and end-stage kidney failure requiring dialysis can be attributed to diabetes. Other serious complications include leg claudication and stroke, and early deaths.

“During pregnancy, poorly-controlled diabetes increases risk of complications for both mother and baby.

“Importantly, most of these complications can be avoided or prevented with proper management. But, unfortunately, many of these individuals – for reasons best known to them – do not control their diabetes well, resulting in high rates of complications,” says Prof Mustaffa.

All this should, and must, lead to better awareness about the disease, and measures must be implemented to prevent as well as control the disease.

The first step is vital important: awareness.

“For type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, we have a fair idea of the causes: being overweight or obese, not being physically active or seldom exercise, unhealthy lifestyle with poor diet and poor sleep, and a touch of genetics. So, except for genetics, a lot can be done by individuals, especially those at risk, to stop diabetes from developing,” advises Prof Mustaffa.

“Indeed, many studies, such as the Da Qing in China, Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study (DPS) and the American Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) have shown that just by adopting a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and diet adjustments, the risk of diabetes could be reduced by as much as 42% to 58%,” he adds.

The basics of diabetes

So, what is diabetes? It is essentially a group of diseases that involve problems with the hormone insulin.

This hormone is regulated by the pancreas to help the body store and use the sugar and fat from the food we eat.

Dysfunction occurs when one of the following occurs:

  • No insulin is produced
  • Very little insulin is produced
  • The body does not respond properly to insulin
  • Understanding the physiology then helps us understand the various types of diabetes:
  • Type 1 diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (called beta cells) are destroyed, so there’s no insulin production. It most commonly affects those under the age of 20, but may occur at any age.
  • In type 2 diabetes, insulin is produced. However, this is either insufficient for the body’s needs or the body does not respond appropriately to the hormone. This is the most common form of diabetes, and is prevalent in those who are overweight. It’s also occurring at a younger age, in parallel with rising obesity rates worldwide.
  • Gestational diabetes, which is triggered by pregnancy. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can affect insulin, and this condition occurs in approximately 4% of all pregnancies.

Medical literature cites three classical symptoms of diabetes – polyuria, which is frequent urination; polydipsia, which is increased thirst and fluid intake; and polyphagia, which is increased appetite.

In truth, there are many other possible symptoms, such as fatigue, blurry vision, cuts/bruises that are slow to heal, and tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet.

However, not everyone with diabetes may have such symptoms, and damage might have progressed before they’re finally diagnosed.

Diabetes can’t be cured, though it can be managed and controlled through a few key steps.

  • Keep blood sugar levels as near to normal as possible.
  • Maintain normal blood cholesterol and triglyceride (lipid) levels.
  • Controlling blood pressure.

These can be done through a balanced meal plan and regular exercise.

If prescribed treatment, closely follow the doctor’s advice, and make monitoring your blood sugar and blood pressure levels a regular habit.

Getting the right information

There are many sources of credible diabetes information that you can tap into.

The Government has undertaken various campaigns on healthy lifestyle, diabetes awareness and proper nutrition over the years. Besides that, these days, there are plenty of websites that you can mine for information. Just make sure that these are credible sources.

Some examples include: www.diabetes.org/ (American Diabetes Association); www.cdc.gov/diabetes/home/ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diagnosis-diabetes (WebMD); https://www.diabetes.org.uk/ (Diabetes UK); https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/ (Diabetes Australia); and

www.diabetesmalaysia.com.my/ (National Diabetes Institute, Malaysia).

At the end of the day, it’s in your hands – do you take control, or are you going to bury your head in the sand and ignore the problem?

In the month of November, The Star will be commemorating World Diabetes Day 2016 with a series of articles and activities spread over different media platforms.

This is part of our effort to heighten awareness of the disease, as well as to reduce the burden of diabetes on the nation and individual Malaysians.sfitx_anr_3010_p6diabetes-pdf

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Source : http://www.star2.com/health/wellness/2016/10/30/what-do-you-know-about-diabetes/#A19pt0SGzpwUhgHh.99