Towards a healthier lifestyle
“DIABETES does not present clear symptoms in the initial stages. You can have diabetes for a long time without knowing. This is the reason it is known as a silent killer,” says Dr Loh Vooi Lee, consultant physician and endocrinologist at ParkCity Medical Centre.
“The symptoms of diabetes include intense thirst (especially at night), frequent need to urinate, fatigue, numbness in the feet and blurred vision. However, these symptoms develop when the disease has already progressed to an advanced stage.
“About 30% to 40% of people would have already developed diabetes-related complications such as eye, nerve, kidney and heart problems when they are first diagnosed. Some come in for a check-up for some other disease, but their blood tests reveal that they have diabetes.”
According to Dr Loh, diabetes is multifactorial and does not have an absolute cause that can be pinpointed. There are only associative causes such as genetic predisposition and family history.
Diabetes can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, which is performed after the patient has fasted overnight.
A careful handle on the future
“Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, your first course of action should be a lifestyle change. Regardless of what you did in the past, you must start leading a healthier lifestyle,” advises Dr Loh.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle involves regularly exercising, eating healthy food and sleeping well. It is also crucial for a diabetic person to keep tabs on her blood glucose level and not skip doses of medication.
Dr Loh adds, “Diabetes is not a curable disease. The most we can do is control it, and the only way to do so is with medication and lifestyle changes.
“The same applies to diabetes prevention. People who have high blood pressure, obesity and a strong family history of diabetes need to take preventative measures by making the necessary lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of developing diabetes.”
A common misconception is that a diabetic can stop taking medication once her blood glucose level is under control or continue leading an unhealthy lifestyle because she is on medication.
Dr Loh dispels this, saying, “Diabetes is a chronic condition. If you have it now, you could still have it 20 years later. Medication and lifestyle changes are meant to control your blood glucose level to prevent further complications, so they should be continued.
“People also have the misconception that diabetes medication can cause side effects that lead to kidney problems or heart failure. However, it is not the medication that causes these problems, but diabetes itself.
“People who think they can eat whatever they want because they are on diabetes medication need to understand that they can easily out-eat their medication if they keep loading up on sugar. There are limitations to the level of blood glucose that medication can control.”
How we move forward
“Diabetes is not an easy disease to treat, especially in Malaysia, because although people are aware, they are ignorant. With so many unhealthy food choices, Malaysians face difficulty in controlling their urges to binge on unwholesome food and choose to bear the consequences instead.
“We need to understand that the consequences are graver than just a spike in blood glucose level because diabetes brings with it a plethora of fatal diseases,” says Dr Loh.
Despite efforts from the Government, diabetes is on the rise in the country. The only way we can prevent it from causing more harm is by leading healthy lifestyles and ensuring that our loved ones do the same.
nFor more information, call 03-5639 1212.