If you haven’t thought about diabetes before, it is time to stop and think for a minute. Why, you might ask? The World Health Organization’s figures from last year estimate over 350 million people worldwide have diabetes. The emerging epidemic is attributed to the rapid increases in overweight, obese and physically inactive individuals. Diabetes is a serious disease that affects both men and women all over the world; since this blog focuses on women, we want to bring awareness to women about diabetes detection and prevention. We know that women characteristically are taking care of everyone around them and often don’t take the time for themselves.

What is Diabetes?

From the World Health Organization, “Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar (5). Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.” In essence, the increase in blood sugar acts like a poison to your body.

The Three Types of Diabetes

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

  • Type 1 diabetes is characterized by a lack of insulin production.
  • Type 2 diabetes is characterized from the body’s ineffective use of insulin.
  • Type 3 diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is characterized by hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar. Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Facts about Diabetes from the World Health Organization

  • Diabetes is predicted to become the 7th leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
  • Total deaths from diabetes are projected to increase more than 50% in the next 10 years.
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of all diabetes worldwide.
  • Reports of Type 2 Diabetes in children have increased worldwide.
  • Diabetes has become one of the major causes of premature illness and death in most countries.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, amputation, and kidney failure.
  • The most important fact is that Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented. Maintaining a healthy diet and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days drastically reduces your risk.

Undiagnosed Diabetes Can be the Real Killer

Awareness is important because so many individuals go undiagnosed. Diagnosis, awareness, and treatment can reverse the effects of the disease, so it is so important to spread the word and encourage good health. Since women are the caretakers of families, they can be the influence for the rest of the family to eat right and seek medical care when necessary. Consider these facts from the International Diabetes Federation:

  • 46.3 % of the estimate 387 million people living with diabetes in the world are undiagnosed.
  • That is 1 in every 12 people worldwide have diabetes.
  • 1 in 2 people do not know they have it.
  • Every 7 seconds one person dies from diabetes.
  • In 2014, 4.9 million deaths were attributed to diabetes.
  • $1 out of every $9 spent on healthcare is spent on diabetes.
  • In 2014, diabetes expenditures reached $612 billion.

Could You Have Diabetes? What to Look For

The key to prevention (in addition to healthy diet and exercise) is early detection. So many people’s diagnosis goes undetected because the early symptoms are not alarming and could be considered common. However, early detection can help stop progression of the disease before further complication occur. Here is what to look for:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Unexplained weight loss (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
  • Frequent yeast infections

Unfortunately, many of these early symptoms or warning signs for diabetes are attributed to something else and ignored. A simple visit to a doctor and blood test can help determine your blood levels and alert you if there is a problem.

Treatment Options for Diabetes

Treatment for diabetes has to start with diet and exercise. It is ironic that the same things that can prevent diabetes are usually only adopted after a diagnosis. Eating healthy means consuming more raw fruits and vegetables, little or no sugars, lean proteins, and cutting back on foods rich in carbohydrates. Low glycemic foods can help you reach a more stable blood sugar level. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen has been shown to start to reverse the effects of early onset diabetes. However, in most cases, medical treatment is necessary. Insulin therapy is sometimes prescribed for patients who cannot reach their target blood sugar level with diet and exercise alone. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you will have to monitor your blood sugar level and also discuss insulin therapy options with your doctor.