Diabetes is a lifelong disease and can be distressing to patients both emotionally and economically. Diabetes can be described as a condition characterized by high level of blood sugar that can eventually lead to long term serious complications. Broadly speaking, diabetes can be classified into type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops in pregnancy). Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of all cases of diabetes and is the most commonly seen diabetes in our practice. Type 2 diabetes develops when your body develops resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps lower blood sugar. Why this happens is unknown, however, there are certain risk factors that can contribute to developing type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include family history of diabetes, obesity/overweight or having a BMI >23, prediabetes (borderline high blood sugar),sedentary life style, high blood pressure/ high blood cholesterol and so on. Having any one of these risk factors increases your chances of developing diabetes. However, the good news is the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced and even prevented.
Several studies have shown that lifestyle changes can help prevent type 2 diabetes. One study concluded that lifestyle changes (weight reduction and exercise) reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 58% compared to treatment with metformin (anti diabetic agent) that reduced the risk by only 33%. So, if you have any one of the risk factors for developing diabetes, today is the day to initiate lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes include modest body weight reduction (10% of current body weight), healthy eating and physical activity. Healthy eating can be tricky for Nepalese people since our major meals mainly consists of rice. The basic idea is to recognize food that are rich in carbohydrate and reduce their portion. Avoiding sugar and sugar containing food like canned juice, canned fruits, jam, honey and increasing fibre and vegetable intake and minimizing saturated fat intake should be encouraged. Experts advise 150 minutes/week of physical activity that can be divided into 30 minutes of exercise over 5 days per week. Diabetes is a serious health concern that needs to be addressed globally. Raising awareness about diabetes in communities and adapting a healthy lifestyle can help fight against this deadly disease.
Dr. Yonzon is an endocrinologist.