Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is one of the most underrated diseases amongst the general public and I am personally passionate about it for 2 reasons:
1) It is entirely preventable
2) We all know someone with it (when we shouldn’t!)
(Cricketing Legend Wasim Akram)
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(Producer, Writer & Director George Lucas)
Before I begin, please be aware that in this post I am discussing type 2 diabetes mellitus and not any other form of diabetes. Anything discussed on the blog should not be a replacement for any advice given to you by your own doctor. They know you as an individual and therefore can give you personalised advice.
Diabetes is a condition that causes raised blood sugar levels which is regulated by a hormone called insulin. In T2DM our body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the insulin we produce is no longer effective in our body – known as insulin resistance. T2DM usually starts when you are past your 20’s and is usually initially treated with tablets.
Now it’s a good thing to have some sugar in the blood. It keeps our energy levels up and it’s what our tissues use to function. But when these levels are too high, our body isn’t able to process and store it properly so the sugar starts getting stuck in areas it shouldn’t, like our blood vessels. Our blood vessels supply oxygen to our body. The tiniest of blood vessels are microscopic – these are the ones that are affected in diabetes, because the sugar gets stuck in them. The places where we find these blood vessels, and where diabetes causes a problem most frequently, are: the eyes, our nerves (the electrical system of our body) and the heart.
That is why Diabetes is such a big deal. It causes heart problems i.e. can result in a heart attack. It causes problems with sight – cataracts and even blindness, and it causes neuropathy – loss of sensation in our hands and feet – resulting in an increase risk of falls and damage.
Imagine if your foot stepped on a nail – ouch! Except you wouldn’t be able to feel it due to the diabetes and therefore wouldn’t notice or get it treated. This can result in severe infections – which can even lead to amputation because people with diabetes have poor wound healing.
Now that I’ve scared you, I’m going to try and make it better…
Diabetes is one of the most preventable diseases in the world. Millions of people suffer from it and even die as a result. Yet it has always been preventable and to some extent even reversible.
How may this be done you ask?
There are a few things that are known to result in a better outcome for people with diabetes.
1) Weight loss – in a healthy, non-crash diet way – i.e. with eating correctly and exercising. This may actually reverse diabetes.
2) Keeping good control with or without medication of your blood glucose levels – We generally measure this in 3 ways.
First with a blood test called an HBA1c which measures your sugar control over 3 months – So beware, you can’t just have good blood sugar levels the day you see your doctor – they can always see what you’ve been doing for the last 3 months.
Secondly, by your random blood glucose which is the finger prick – which tells you what your glucose level is at that very moment.
Lastly, there is the fasting blood glucose – which is usually used for the diagnosis of diabetes. Essentially the better your sugar control, the less likely you are to have any of the complications of diabetes mentioned above.
3) Keeping a diet with that has a low glycemic index (GI) – that is not eating any refined or processed foods a.k.a “white foods” – this includes pasta, white bread, maida etc. and of course any refined sugars (sweets, chocolates and mithai) also beware any processed foods containing the ingredient high fructose corn syrup.
Essentially, there is no quick cure for diabetes. Doctors like to give out medication like it’s candy (pun not intended!). This helps keep the situation under control and is your best bet if your not going to eat right or exercise. But there is DEFINITELY a way to prevent and improve it. So it doesn’t matter how many family members you have with the condition, you are not a slave to your genes and if you’re willing you can help yourself. So think twice before eating that donut.
(The writer Sahiba Singh is a medical practitioner)