Understanding the cause of Diabetes and prevention methods

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. In the UAE, 25% of Emiratis and 20% of non- Emirati’s are living with Diabetes. Currently the UAE has the fastest growing rate of Diabetes in the world.

What is Diabetes?

Normally, most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy. With Diabetes, your body may not produce enough insulin or cannot make insulin as it should. This causes the cells in your body to stop responding to insulin and you end up with high levels of blood sugar in your bloodstream. This in the long run, affects every organ in the body – heart (heart attack), eyes (glaucoma and blindness), brain (stroke), liver (liver damage), kidneys (kidney failure) to name a few.


Types of Diabetes

There are 3 types of Diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers, and young adults. It is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin and affects about 5% of the people who have diabetes. Those with Type 1 Diabetes must take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of Diabetes and occurs in older adults- although we are now seeing many cases in children and younger adults. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. Symptoms are not obvious, therefore it is imperative to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active.

Gestational Diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have never had Diabetes. With this type of Diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health problems. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after your baby is born but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. This increases the likelihood that your baby will develop obesity as a child or teen, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too.


Diabetes Prevention

Unfortunately, Type 1 Diabetes is not something we can prevent. Thankfully though, doctors have been able to develop the right management techniques so that anybody living with Type 1 Diabetes can lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

With Type 2 Diabetes however, there are many preventative measures we can take. Diabetes has been proven to be directly linked to our lifestyle habits – obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and alcohol.

Here are some simple tips to prevent Type 2 diabetes:

1. Eat A Well Balanced Diet:
With the constant rise in diabetes in the world, we cannot overemphasize how important it is to pay attention to what we put into our bodies. Eat whole foods, and avoid processed foods,. Choose water or fresh juices with no added sugar and skip the sugary drinks. Healthy fats, such as avocado, brazil nuts and seafood are excellent to include in your diet. Avoid saturated fat that is mostly found in animal-based foods like dairy and red meat, and limit your red meat consumption. Pay attention to food ingredient labels and do not be fooled by packaging lines like ‘zero trans-fat’, ‘zero calories’, etc. Note that every food group plays a vital role in the body and whatever your dietary goals are, moderation is important.

2. Exercise
Physical activity provides great benefit to improving the risk of diabetes by activating processes in the body that help control blood sugar and improves body metabolism as a whole. It is highly recommended to get an average of 150 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking, water aerobics, playing sports, etc. per week and at least 2 days of muscle strengthening activities per week. These measures combined with a healthy diet have been found to reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%.

3. Say no to Smoking
Smoking and alcohol consumption also significantly increase the risk of diabetes and quitting these habits will project one to a better health status overall.

4. Annual Screening
It is very important to have a blood test done annually. Should you have any symptoms like excessive thirst, excessive eating, unexplained weight loss, do not hesitate to speak to one of our doctors using our app.

Dr Esther discusses Diabetes and prevention methods.

Dr Esther Dairo

General Practitioner

Today, with all of the research surrounding Diabetes we are able to offer patients with the necessary support for proper care and self-management. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, or if you suspect you or a loved one is showing signs of Diabetes, ask your Health at Hand doctor for advice through our app that can be easily downloaded from the App Store.