Diabetes – Recognition and Prevention

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Anyone can be at risk for diabetes. In this article, we tell you how you can protect yourself from diabetes.

Diabetes - Recognition and Prevention

The most common types of diabetes mellitus are type-1 and type-2 diabetes. Diabetes mellitus affects the body's ability in metabolising sugar, using the hormone insulin. Insulin helps the cells use the simple sugar glucose which is needed for repair, growth and energy.

In Type-1 diabetes, the body produces little or no insulin so those with this type of diabetes will need to be on insulin therapy life long. Where as in the case of type 2 diabetes, the body produces plenty of insulin but cells are unable to use it.

In either case, the body fails to properly process sugar. Excess sugar can damage the large and small blood cells in your body. It can also damage organs, the most vulnerable ones being:

  • eyes, where damaged blood vessels can cause blindness
  • heart, where damaged blood vessels can result in a heart attack
  • feet, where impaired blood flow can damage nerves and can lead to amputation of digits or the whole foot
  • kidneys, which filter blood, have to work harder than usual to filter sugar, leading to damage and, eventually, failure.

Are you at risk of diabetes? 

  • Anybody can be at risk of diabetes, regardless of family history and income. Risk increases as a person ages.
  • Vegetarians are not necessarily at lower risk.  However, taking limited quantities of animal proteins and fats is beneficial for overall health. Risk is high in case of those who lead a sedentary life.
  • People with bigger bellies are at increased risk. And hence Indians are at a higher risk because they are genetically prone to storing fat in the belly, a particularly dangerous place. Women should keep their waist measurement below 80 cm (31.5 inches), and men below 90 cm (35.5 inches).

Get checked for diabetes 

Until the condition gets very serious, one might not notice any symptoms.

Make sure you get your sugar checked regularly.  You can do this at any lab or as part of a master health check-up.  For a sugar test (glucose tolerance test), you will need to give blood or urine samples.

  • One sample must be given on empty stomach (fasting sample). Then samples are taken every half hour for up to 2 hours, after a meal.
  • The report will show your blood sugar level.  If your blood sugar count is higher than 110 at fasting and 200 at 2-hours, you are considered diabetic.  Pre-diabetes can be diagnosed if your 2-hour level is above 140.

Symptoms commonly associated with diabetes:

  • Urinating often:  Your body tries to get rid of more fluid to balance your urine, which otherwise has too much glucose.
  • Excessive thirst:  Your body lets you know that you need to replace the fluid being lost to excess urination.
  • Excessive hunger: When your body cells don’t receive glucose, your body interprets this as feeling hungry.
  • Wounds that do not heal: Your blood circulation is altered and can no longer promptly deliver the materials your body needs to repair wounds, particularly in the lower extremities.
  • Rapid weight loss:  Glucose can no longer be used by body cells for energy, and hence your body draws on fat reserves, resulting in weight loss.
  • Dizziness/giddiness: You will experience dizziness because your cells do not have enough sugar, because you are dehydrated, because your blood pressure has been altered or because of damage to your nerves.

Prevention of diabetes:

  • Sedentary lifestyle is the biggest enemy and hence physical activity is critical. At least include 30 minutes of physical activity into your schedule that will make you breathe faster and increase your heart rate.
  • If you smoke, try to cut back, and eventually quit.  Quitting is hard, but even cutting down to fewer cigarettes a day has positive health effects.
  • If you drink alcohol, consume in moderation.
  • Reducing stress and getting enough sleep will take you a long way, but only if complemented by increased physical activity and altered eating habits. Many people feel that regular meal timings can help prevent diabetes.
  • Pay attention to what you eat. Take small, frequent meals. Add less sugar to tea and coffee.

Here are some additional tips you can use while cooking:

  • Include more vegetables in your diet.
  • Switch from white to brown rice, which has more fibre.
  • Cook with olive, sunflower or gingili oil, which contain healthy fats.
  • Use non-stick pans, thereby cut down on oil intake.

The lifestyle changes recommended here will not only help prevent diabetes, but will keep you healthier and give you more energy in general!

Photograph via sxc.hu

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