A global report on diabetes, conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), reveals that according to estimates, 422 million adults worldwide had diabetes in 2014 compared to 108 million in 1980. But this disease raises many questions in peoples’ minds; in a recent news bulletin it was referred to as the silent killer.
So, what is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a disorder in which the body is unable to regulate glucose (sugar) in the blood. The cells of the body need sugar to function normally; sugar is introduced into cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is insufficient insulin or if cells do not respond well to insulin, blood sugar levels rise and this is the cause of diabetes.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
On many occasions diabetes does not produce any symptoms. If they do occur they can include: need to urinate frequently, thirst, weight loss, blurred vision…
Why should we worry about it?
Because although it might not cause any symptoms and the patient may not feel unwell, over time diabetes can cause serious problems; if not treated correctly it can lead to:
How can I find out if I have diabetes?
To do this you will need to have a blood test to measure the concentration of glucose (sugar) in your blood.
What are the risk factors?
The following are factors that have been identified to increase the risk of diabetes:
At HC Marbella we recommend a blood test to rule out diabetes in individuals who are overweight and have one of the other risk factors. Anyone else over 45 years of age should also be tested.
How is diabetes treated?
There are many drugs that can be used to control blood glucose levels. Some people need to take tablets which help the body produce more insulin or which help the insulin to be more effective. Others need medication which cannot be taken orally but needs to be given via a small injection. This includes insulin and a new group of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists.
Keeping blood glucose within normal limits helps to prevent problems caused by diabetes; however this is only one aspect that requires attention. High blood pressure and high cholesterol frequently cause more serious problems than high blood sugar. Diabetics are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke; this is why diabetics often need medication to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce that risk.
Medication is not the only important tool in the management of diabetes. The Mediterranean Diet is recommended. This includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals with a limited amount of meat, fried foods or foods rich in saturated fat (“bad” fats). Regular physical exercise is also important to avoid being overweight. ‘No smoking’ is essential.
Can diabetes be prevented?
It is possible to reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes. The most important thing that you can do is to control your weight and avoid obesity. If you are already diabetic losing weight can also improve your health and help to control your blood sugar levels. Physical exercise also aids in the prevention and control of the disease