-with files from the World Health Organization
‘If type 2 diabetes was an infectious disease, passed from one person to another, public health officials would say we’re in the midst of an epidemic. This difficult disease, once called adult-onset diabetes, is striking an ever-growing number of adults. Even more alarming, it’s now beginning to show up in teenagers and children’.-Harvard School of Public Health
This Thursday, April 7 is World Health Day, as designated by the World Health Organization.This year the main goal of the W.H.O. campaign is to raise awareness about diabetes, and to halt its rise throughout the world.
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. 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.
There are two major forms of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.
Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world (5), and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
Symptoms may be similar to those of Type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen.Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children
The statistics on diabetes are pretty staggering. Here are just a few:
-Three Hundred and fifty million people around the world have diabetes. This number is expected to double within twenty years.
-Diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world within fourteen years
-As recently as 2012, diabetes was responsible for the deaths of one and a half million people, 80% of these in low to middle income countries
-Ninety percent of diabetes worldwide is Type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable, with the biggest gains occurring in children. Type 2 diabetes in children used to be rare, but now accounts for almost half of newly diagnosed cases in children and adolescents.
-Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, amputation and kidney failure, with cardiovascular disease responsible for 50-80% of deaths in people with diabetes
The burden of diabetes is increasing globally, particularly in developing countries. The causes are a complex, but the increase is in large part due to rapid increases in overweight, including obesity and physical inactivity. Although there is good evidence that a large proportion of cases of diabetes and its complications can be prevented by a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco, this evidence is not widely implemented. Coordinated international and national policies are needed to reduce exposure to the known risk factors for diabetes and to improve access to and quality of care.-World Health Organization
The good news (see also “frustrating news”) is that 90% of type 2 diabetes could be avoided by taking simple steps: keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking.
If you are looking for some more hands-on ways to get involved in the fight against diabetes, and spread the word in your community, check out these ideas presented by the World Health Organization