World Diabetes Day takes place on 14 November each year. This year marks the fourth year of the five-year focus on diabetes education and prevention. The campaign aims to educate, engage and empower youth and the public. Under the slogan “Diabetes: protect our future” the Department of Health aims to inspire and engage local communities to recognise the importance of early awareness of the risks and dangers of diabetes. This is to build awareness about the warning signs and risk factors for diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease characterised by above normal high blood glucose levels. Our bodies turn most of the food we eat into glucose or sugar to use as energy. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose enter our body cells. When you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or cannot use its own insulin. This causes sugar to build up in the blood. Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower- extremity amputations. This is when a part of or, in extreme cases, the whole limb, is cut off. There are two kinds of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.
Is diabetes preventable?
Scientists believe that lifestyle and type 2 diabetes are closely linked. This means that life- style is an area which you can focus on to help prevent or delay the onset of the disease. You can prevent diabetes by eating healthy food, controlling your weight, exercising, reducing stress and quitting smoking.
Who is at risk?
You are at risk if you:
- are over 35
- are overweight, especially if most of the weight is around your waist
- have a family history of diabetes
- have given birth to a baby who weighed more than 4 kg at birth,
- had gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- have high cholesterol
- have high blood pressure
- have heart disease.
Signs and symptoms
The following are symptoms of diabetes:
- a weak bladder
- thirst all the time
- unexplained weight loss
- extreme hunger
- sudden vision changes
- tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
- extreme tiredness all the time
- very dry skin
- your sores are slow to heal
- you have more infections than usual.
There is no known way of preventing type 1 diabetes. However, you can prevent type 2 diabetes by exercising regularly, eating healthy, whole-grain food with plenty of fibre.
Healthy eating, physical activity and insulin injections are the best treatment for type 1 diabetes. Healthy eating, physical activity and blood-glucose testing are the basic treatment for type 2 diabetes. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood-glucose levels.
Diabetes is a serious condition and if left untreated, the high blood glucose levels can slowly damage the fine nerves and the small and large blood vessels in the body, resulting in several complications. The good news is that with careful management you can delay these and prevent them, but early diagnosis is very important. You need to know what the symptoms of diabetes are and whether you are at risk.