The international community commemorates World Diabetes Day on 14 November every year, to raise awareness of the growing burden of this disease, and strategies to prevent and manage the threat.
This year’s theme is again “Access to diabetes care”, as it was last year, and will be again in 2023, highlighting the importance of prevention and response efforts.
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 is a hormone that regulates blood glucose. Hyperglycaemia, also called raised blood glucose or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
There are three main types of diabetes – type 1, type 2 and gestational.
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, but occurs most frequently in children and adolescents. When you have type 1 diabetes, your body produces very little or no insulin, which means that you need daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose levels under control.
Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make good use of the insulin that it produces. The cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment is healthy lifestyle, including increased physical activity and healthy diet. However, over time most people with type 2 diabetes will require oral drugs and/or insulin to keep their blood glucose levels under control.
Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a type of diabetes that consists of high blood glucose during pregnancy and is associated with complications to both mother and child. GDM usually disappears after pregnancy but women affected and their children are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Importantly, diabetes is the only major noncommunicable disease (NCD) for which the risk of dying early is increasing, rather than decreasing.
Known risk factors include family history and increasing age, along with modifiable risk factors such as overweight and obesity, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, smoking and alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, these modifiable risk factors are on the rise across all countries in the WHO African Region.
Left unchecked, and without management and lifestyle changes, diabetes can lead to several debilitating complications. These include heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, visual impairment, blindness, and nerve damage. People with diabetes are also at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.
As we commemorate World Diabetes here are tips for its prevention;
Lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, people should:
- achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
- be physically active – doing at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days. More activity is required for weight control;
- eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugar and saturated fats; and
- avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease