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World Health Day: Why Diabetes Theme Now?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing this year’s World Health Day, on 7 April 2016, on diabetes – a largely preventable and treatable non-communicable disease that is rapidly increasing in numbers in many countries, most dramatically in low- and middle-income countries.

Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of Type 2 Diabetes, including maintaining normal body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet.

Diabetes can be controlled and managed to prevent complications through diagnosis, self-management education, and affordable treatment.

The WHO estimates about 350 million people in the world have diabetes, with the disease the direct cause of some 1.5 million deaths. The goals of WHD 2016 are (1) scale up prevention, (2) strengthen care, and (3) enhance surveillance.

The number of adults in the world with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults.

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Diabetes mellitus (DM) can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation, and it already caused 1.5 million deaths globally in 2012. High blood glucose also led to 2.2 million deaths.

This widespread disease is a lifelong condition that causes someone’s blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. There’s Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) and Impaired Fasting Glycaemia (IFG).

Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose in the blood.

Type 1 is where the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin. People with it need to have insulin every day. Scientists still don’t know what causes Type 1.

Type 2 is where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. It is usually caused by excess body weight and physical inactivity, because the body isn’t using insulin effectively. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a condition some pregnant women suffer. It’s where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to make them Type 2. It can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery. Women with it, and their children, also have more chance of developing Type 2.

Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) and Impaired Fasting Glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normality and Type 2 diabetes.

Why Does Diabetes Affect Humans?

It isn’t known what causes Type 1 but it often runs in families so is thought to be genetic. But, you have a higher chance of developing Type 2 if you are over 40 (or over 25 if you are of south Asian descent), have a close relative with diabetes, are overweight or obese, or are of south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or black African origin.

We can avoid Type 2 Diabetes via losing excess weight. A healthy diet and exercise are the key to a healthy weight, but that doesn’t have to mean a strict diet and hours at the gym.

Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day and stick to a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugar and saturated fats.