The number of Singaporeans living with diabetes is expected to rise to one million by 2050. Are you at risk of developing it? Read this now to protect yourself and your famiy
Diabetes is a condition when the pancreas is no longer able to make the hormone insulin, or when the body can’t effectively use the insulin it produces. When we eat foods containing carbohydrates they are broken down into glucose (sugar) in the blood. Insulin transfers glucose from the blood into the liver and muscle cells for energy. As long as your body can keep up with the amount of insulin it needs, blood sugar levels stay in the health range. When insulin isn’t produced or isn’t controlled properly, it leads to raised glucose levels in the blood, also known as hypoglycaemia. Over time, this can cause complications throughout the body, such as blindness, kidney damage, gum disease and heart disease. Because diabetes is a serious condition, it can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy. While Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent, it’s worth knowing about all the different variations of the disease.
TYPE 1 DIABETES
This is a condition in which the immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, it’s estimated that Type 1 diabetes makes up 10 per cent of diabetes cases, and it most often present in kids aged seven to 12. Experts don’t know what causes this auto-immune reaction and it’s not linked to lifestyle factors.
As diabetes can be a complex condition, there are many myths that abound. We sort out the facts from fiction:
Eating too much sugar causes diabetes
While excessive amounts of sugar can contribute to developing diabetes later on, it’s not the main factor. Diabetes is caused by many factors, including an unhealthy lifestyle, genetics and age.
You can’t reverse Type 2 diabetes
Happily, those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes can generally put their condition into remission. Making lifestyle changes, like eating healthily, exercising regularly, reducing stress and getting enough sleep, can do a lot for managing your blood sugar levels. While diabetes is also not contagious, there could be a genetic link with Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes has no symptoms
While some symptoms can be similar to those associated with getting older, paying attention to your body means you can catch any unusual signs early and start treatment. Symptoms include increased thirst and appetite, frequent urination, weight gain, tiredness and slow wound healing.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
Known as a lifestyle disease, Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. It is most often diagnosed in adulthood, in your 30s or 40s, but there're increasing numbers of younger people are developing it, too.
A form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, and is caused because a mother can’t produce enough insulin – a pregnant woman’s needs are two to three times that of normal. It is diagnosed when higher than normal blood sugar levels first appear during pregnancy. While it usually goes away after the baby is born, it is a risk factor for developing pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes later.
Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal as a result of insulin resistance, but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. Symptoms include extreme thirst, urinating more often, feeling drowsy, and wounds being slow to heal. If you’re diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you’re at 10 to 20 times greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. However, you can prevent it from progressing to diabetes by making healthy lifestyle changes.
DID YOU KNOW?
A 2018 study in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology proposed categorising diabetes into five categories, rather than just Type 1 or Type 2. The five forms of diabetes were categorised as Cluster 1: Severe autoimmune diabetes, similar to Type 1 diabetes; Cluster 2: Severe insulin- deficient diabetes; Cluster 3: Severe insulin-resistant diabetes; Cluster 4: Mild obesity-related diabetes; and Cluster 5: Mild agerelated diabetes.
You must take insulin if you have diabetes
While diabetes can be managed by insulin injections, many of those with Type 2 diabetes can manage their condition through lifestyle changes and medication. However, if they’re unable to control their blood sugar levels with these interventions, then they may need insulin to help them manage their diabetes.
Thin people don’t get diabetes
While Type 2 diabetes is known as a lifestyle disease, thin people who have a sedentary lifestyle, experience a high level of stress, or don’t eat well are also at risk. Slim people can also get Type 1 diabetes.
Those with diabetes can’t eat sugar
When those with diabetes have their blood sugar under control, whether through a balanced diet or medication, they can have sugar occasionally. It’s best to have sugar from natural sources, like fruit. On that note, diabetics can eat sweet fruit like mangoes, bananas, cherries and watermelon, on occasion too. Fruit has essential nutrients and fibre, so it’s not wise to eliminate them from your diet completely.
Diabetes can develop at any age, but there are factors which put some at particular risk and should be paid special attention to
Singapore’s war on diabetes is mostly due to our ageing population, who are prone to developing diabetes as they get older. With 41 per cent of Singapore’s workforce sitting at least eight hours a day, many of us have gotten used to sedentary behaviour that can pose major health risks, such as Type 2 diabetes. Small changes to our daily habits may be able to provide some relief to Singapore’s increasing cases of diabetes. It’s good to be aware of your risk factors, so you can manage those that can be changed, and seek help quickly if you’re concerned.
Is Your Boss Giving You Diabetes?
A recent Canadian study published in Occupational Medicine found that women who lack control at work are twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to those who have workplace autonomy. Women also have a tougher time lowering their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can affect your blood sugar levels. When levels remain high, this can affect how the body handles sugars and fat, which can lead to obesity, a precursor to diabetes. Outsmart your stress traps by regularly exercising, turning to breathing exercises and meditation, or even just looking at videos of cute puppies on the Internet for five minutes.
The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin. A waist measurement of more than 80 cm for women of Asian descent increases your risk.
The less active you are, the greater your risk. Doing at least two and a half hours of physical activity per week can help you to control your weight, use up sugar as energy and make your insulin work better for your body.
You’re two to six times more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if you have a parent, sibling or child that has been diagnosed with diabetes.
The prevalence of diabetes is higher in Indians, followed by Malays, then the Chinese respectively in Singapore.
Having too much, too little or disturbed sleep can increase your risk. Check out our website (www.womensweekly.com.sg
) for tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.
While diabetes can strike at any age, your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes begins to rise from 40. The condition is also increasing dramatically among children, teens and young adults.
Tobacco use can increase insulin resistance and stimulate stress hormones, which can increase blood glucose levels and make it more difficult to manage pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Too much alcohol is associated with an increased risk in Type 2 diabetes. It’s recommended that you have no more than two standard drinks a day, with some alcohol-free days each week.
Ways To BEAT Diabetes
These simple steps from HealthHub may be all you need to do to lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes:
Diabetes can affect anyone. Knowing your risk will help you identify the changes you need to make to your lifestyle.
Eat in moderation. Choose more wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, as well as less sugar and saturated fats.
ADOPT AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
Engage in 150 minutes of physical activity a week for at least 10 minutes each time. If you have chronic diseases, try brisk walking or tai chi.
Aim for a healthy weight by keeping an eye on your Body Mass Index (BMI). It's also advisable to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor your condition.
TEXT: BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU / ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NATALYA MOLOK & CHERRIE LIM / PHOTOS: 123RF.COM