November 14, 2014 is World Diabetes Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness for the global issue of diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease of the pancreas, and there are three types.
Also known previously as juvenile onset diabetes, Type 1 diabetes is generally diagnosed at a very young age. For this type of diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin at all.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body either produces inadequate insulin, or the body is unable to utilize the insulin produced.
This type of diabetes occurs in approximately one in 25 pregnancies across the globe. Although generally resolved post-partum, women who experience gestational diabetes are more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes later in life, as are their children.
Global diabetes statistics
Some statistics about diabetes across the globe:
- China has the most diagnosed cases of diabetes, with 98.4 million cases in people between the ages of 20 and 79.
- Over 37% of the population of Tokelau has diabetes. That is nearly four out of every ten people.
- There were 382 million people living with diabetes in 2013. That number is projected to rise to 592 million people by the year 2035, an increase of 55%.
- North America will spend 263 billion annually on health costs related to diabetes. The proportion of deaths related to diabetes for people under 60 is 38%.
- European countries will spend 147 billion annually, and their proportion of diabetes-related deaths for people under 60 is 50%.
- The Middle East and North Africa have the highest percentage of the population living with diabetes at just under 12%.
Worldwide, 46% of diabetes cases go undiagnosed, so it is important to raise awareness and recognize the signs and symptoms of this disease. For Type 1 diabetes, symptoms usually come on swiftly and are extreme, while Type 2 symptoms may occur gradually over time.
Some signs to watch out for include:
- Excessive thirst and frequent urination
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities (hands and feet)
- Increased infections
- Wounds that heal more slowly than usual
- Weight loss not associated with a change in diet
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty staying focused
- Loss of interest
Diabetes risk factors
Risk factors are different for different people. Although heredity plays a large part in Type 1 diabetes, there are other risks factors for Type 2, some of which can be controlled.
- Lack of physical activity. People who are inactive and do not get a minimum amount of physical exercise daily are at an increased risk.
- Unhealthy diet. Diets high in fat, sugar, and processed foods increase the chances of developing diabetes.
- Obesity. Obesity is the number one risk factor for developing diabetes. With a few notable exceptions, people who are obese tend to have a lower level of physical activity and an unhealthy diet.
- Age. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop Type 2 diabetes.
- High blood pressure. High blood pressure can be caused by a number of different conditions, which can then lead to diabetes.
- Ethnicity. People of Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, African, and Latino descent have a higher incidence of diabetes than their European counterparts.
Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented at this time, but Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or the progression of the disease slowed if corrective action is taken.
To reduce your chances of developing diabetes, follow these simple guidelines:
- Reduce your sitting time. Getting up and moving around every 20 minutes or so increases blood flow to the brain and muscles and generally improves circulation. Simply stretching at your desk or walking around during commercial breaks when watching TV can reverse the effects of too much sitting.
- Increase exercise. It doesn’t matter where you start an exercise plan as long as you start one. Walking for one hour three times a week can reduce the progression of diabetes by up to 58%, and 30 minutes of any type of daily exercise (walking, biking, swimming, etc.) reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 40%. Start an exercise plan by walking five minutes a day, even if that is all you can do, and gradually add on to that until you are walking for at least 30 minutes daily.
- Fix your diet. Malnutrition or inadequate food sources are a problem that is at the root of diabetes around the world. Some blame urbanization and the accompanying food deserts that exist in city environments for the shabby state of nutrition in city dwellers. In some cases, it may be possible to remedy this with CSA (community-supported agriculture) deliveries. In others, it may be harder to remedy than simply telling people to eat better. Whatever the case may be, adding as many fresh fruits and vegetable to your diet, along with whole grains and lean proteins is a step in the right direction. Eliminate sugar and processed foods as much as possibly and substitute in healthy snacks and meals when possible. Global poverty, regional conflicts, and food shortages due to weather make this step more difficult for some areas of the world, but it is a necessary change to help curb diabetes.
- Get enough sleep, but not too much. Sleeping less than six hours a night or more than nine hours are both linked with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Sleeping less interferes with the way the body processes food, and sleeping more can indicate depression, another risk factor for diabetes. Develop good sleeping habits and stick with them.
- Stop smoking. In addition to increasing your cardiovascular healthy instantly, stopping smoking is an excellent way to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Smoking is associated with weight gain in the abdomen and high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes affects less-developed nations more deeply than more-developed first-world countries. Extreme poverty and all of its attendant problems (food and water shortages, lack of proper medical personnel and supplies, conflict and war) make diabetes a problem that is difficult to address.
It is easy to tell someone to eat better food when first-world nations have grocery stores readily at hand. For a developing country with no reliable access to fresh food, the chances of making substantive changes quickly are slim.
World Diabetes Day
World Diabetes Day is organized by the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), and their focus is:
- Epidemiology and Prevention
- Essential Care
- Health Economics
- Translational Research
- Women and diabetes
By raising awareness on a global level with World Diabetes Day, the IDF then works on the community level to implement strategies and policies that help combat diabetes at all levels of development. You can get involved and do your part to help IDF in their mission by organizing or participating in activities near you.
To find out your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, fill out this quick questionnaire.
Image from the International Diabetes Foundation