Understanding the silent killer
Most of us know that diabetes is characterised by an increase in the level of glucose in the bloodstream, but do you know what causes this spike?
When we eat, the food consumed is converted to glucose and the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to transfer the glucose from the blood to the body’s cells.
Diabetes is a serious condition where the sugar in the blood is not absorbed by the cells. This happens when the pancreas is damaged and cannot produce insulin or when the body becomes resistant to this hormone.
Type 1 – A person who is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes needs to be supplied insulin externally since his pancreas is incapable of secreting this essential hormone or the amount it produces is insufficient. The root cause of type 1 diabetes is sometimes attributed to genetic disorders, but current knowledge is inadequate to point to just one reason.
Type 2 – This is the more common type of diabetes and occurs when the insulin produced by the pancreas is sufficient but unable to remove glucose from the blood. It happens when the body becomes insulin resistant.
Although unmodifiable risk factors such as age and family history can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, the disease remains vastly preventable because the biggest risk factor is obesity, which is modifiable and attributed to poor diet and physical inactivity.
International Diabetes Federation’s president Prof Nam H. Cho explains, “There are several forces that drive type 2 diabetes, such as rapid urbanisation, the shift in our regular diet from healthy food to foods high in sugar and fat, and inactive lifestyles.”
Excess fat in the body prevents glucose from being absorbed by muscles and tissues, leading to insulin resistance. Glucose accumulates in the bloodstream because insulin is unable to cause the body’s cells to absorb it, resulting in diabetes.
Because the cells do not receive enough glucose to convert to energy, fatigue often accompanies type 2 diabetes.
According to National Diabetes Institute executive chairman Emeritus Prof Datuk Mustaffa Embong, Malaysia has the highest rate of individuals with diabetes in Asia and one of the highest in the world.
The prevalence of diabetes in the country is 16.9% in adults, which equates to a staggering 3.5 million people.
This is not surprising owing to the fact that Malaysia is also the “fattest nation” in Asia as reported by British medical journal, The Lancet.
While we are yet to find preventative measures for type 1 diabetes, we can stop type 2 diabetes from taking over our lives by eating healthier and being more active.