To­wards a health­ier life­style

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - World Diabetes Day - Dr Loh Vooi Lee.

“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. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 03-5639 1212.

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