Un­der­stand­ing the silent killer

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - World Diabetes Day -

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.

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