April 7, 2016 is World Health Day. This year the focus is on diabetes; a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose which could lead to damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. The chronic disease occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body cannot effectively use insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. ¹
Goals of World Health Day include:
- Increased awareness of the staggering burden and consequences of diabetes.
- Trigger specific, effective and affordable actions to tackle diabetes.
- Prevent, diagnose, treat and care for people.
The number of people with Type-2 diabetes is rapidly increasing, most dramatically in low and middle income families. It’s more than just a health issue, it causes substantial economic loss on a personal and a large-scale basis.
Currently, 350 million people have a type of diabetes, and the World Health Organization predicts it’s more than likely to double in next 20 years. In 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths, with more than 80% occurring in low and middle income families.
A large proportion of Type-2 diabetes cases are preventable with certain lifestyle measures:
- Eating healthy
- Keeping physically active
- Taking prescribed medications
- Recognizing hidden sugars
Diabetes is treatable if it’s controlled and managed to prevent complications. Types of diabetes include:
Type-1: (Previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile, or childhood-onset) – is a result of deficient insulin production and requires multiple daily injections of insulin. The cause is not known and not preventable with current medical knowledge. Symptoms may include excessive urination, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. Symptoms may occur suddenly.
Type-2: (Formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult onset) results from ineffective use of insulin, which accounts for 90% of people around the world. Type-2 is largely a result of obesity and lack of physical activity. Symptoms are similar to Type-1 but less marked so it may not be diagnosed until several years after onset, once complications have already arisen. Until recently it was only seen in adults but is now occurring in children.
Gestational Diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy when blood glucose is above normal, but below diagnostic diabetes. Women with Gestational Diabetes are at an increased risk of developing Type-2 diabetes in the future. It can only be diagnosed through prenatal screening.
Consequences of diabetes:
- Increased risk of heart disease, seizure, and stroke.
- Combined with reduced blood flow, nerve damage in the feet increase chance of foot ulcers, infection and eventual need for limb amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy is a big contributor to blindness.
- Leading cause of kidney failure.
- Overall risk of death is at least double the risk of people without diabetes.
What can you do?
- Understand your local issues and what needs to be done.
- Get your community involved through schools, TV shows and public places to provide platforms for events to raise awareness.
- Learn about signs of low blood sugar as this can be major a risk for diabetics.
- Engage in online discussions through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms. Use #Diabetes to share images and stories.
- Learn about diabetes. Remember that it is a different disease for each person, even though there are shared symptoms.
- Team up and form a campaign to promote better health in the community. Send the message that many cases of diabetes are preventable and treatable. Address the growing burden on individuals, families, communities and countries. Stress preventions like healthy eating and physical exercise. Advocate for increased access to diagnosis and treatment, including patient education for self-care.
For more information, contact the Diabetes Center at Bozeman Health:
¹Definition, diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus and its complications. Part 1: Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1999 (WHO/NCD/NCS/99.2).