Time to beat diabetes

TODAY is World Health Day. This year, the theme set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is Beat Diabetes.

In 2008, an estimated 347 million people worldwide had diabetes. In 2012, the disease was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths.

WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030.

According to WHO:

“Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, gives us the energy that we need to live. If it cannot get into the cells to be burned as energy, sugar builds up to harmful levels in the blood.”

Those with Type 1 diabtes typically do not make their own insulin; they need insulin injections to survive.

About 90% of diabetics have Type 2, where they either do not produce enough insulin or they are unable to use it properly. People with Type 2 diabetes are typically overweight and sedentary. These are the two conditions that increase a person’s insulin needs.

Diabetes, or having high blood sugar, can lead to heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, impotence and infections.

WHO has decided to focus on diabetes this World Health Day as the diabetes epidemic is rapidly increasing in many countries, especially in low and middle-income countries.

According to the world body, a large number of diabetes cases is preventable.

“Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. Maintaining normal body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of diabetes.

“Diabetes is treatable. Diabetes can be controlled and managed to prevent complications. Increasing access to diagnosis, self-management education and affordable treatment are vital components of the response.

“Efforts to prevent and treat diabetes will be important to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goal 3 target of reducing premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by one-third by 2030. Many sectors of society have a role to play, including governments, employers, educators, manufacturers, civil society, private sector, the media and individuals themselves.”

The main goals of World Health Day are to:

  • Increase awareness about the rise in diabetes, and its large burden and consequences, in particular in low-and middle-income countries;
  • Trigger a set of specific, effective and affordable actions to tackle diabetes. These include steps to prevent diabetes and diagnose, treat and care for people with diabetes; and
  • Launch the first Global report on diabetes, which will describe the burden and consequences of diabetes and advocate for stronger health systems to ensure improved surveillance, enhanced prevention, and more effective management of diabetes.

To prevent diabetes, senior citizens should focus on two areas – diet and physical activity.

WHO’s recommendations for diet:

  • Achieve energy balance and a healthy weight;
  • Limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of transfatty acids;
  • Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and legumes, whole grains and nuts;
  • Limit the intake of free sugars; and
  • Limit salt (sodium) consumption from all sources and ensure that salt is iodised.

As for physical activity, WHO recommends that people engage in adequate levels throughout their lives.

“Different types and amounts of physical activity are required for different health outcomes: at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity on most days reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer.

“Muscle strengthening and balance training can reduce falls and increase functional status among older adults. More activity may be required for weight control.”

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