Adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly and, maintaining normal body weight can prevent type 2 diabetes, the most common type of the disease that can develop at any age, said experts while speaking at a public health awareness programme held at the Aga Khan University to commemorate World Diabetes Day, November 14, 2011.
Defining the disease and its effect on the body Dr Najmul Islam, Professor and Consultant Endocrinologist, AKUH said, “Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body utilises blood glucose.”
The two most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. “In type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas; insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar,” said Dr Islam. It is unclear why this type of diabetes occurs though a person’s family history and environmental factors may play a role. Its symptoms include excessive urination, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision and fatigue.
Type 2 diabetes is when the body cannot effectively use insulin or the pancreas cannot produce sufficient insulin to cover this inability. Approximately 90 per cent of people with diabetes around the world suffer from type 2 and the risk factors, besides being overweight and physically inactive, include race – Asians, Hispanics, American Indians and blacks are at higher risk – and age. Its symptoms may be similar to those of type 1, but are often less marked; this means that the disease may be diagnosed several years after its onset.
Gestational diabetes is first recognised during pregnancy, and its symptoms are similar to type 2.
“The number of people suffering from diabetes in Pakistan is increasing at an alarming rate and it is imperative that we adopt preventive measures if we are to stop the rapid spread of this disease,” warned Dr Islam.
Ms Sumaira Naseem, Clinical Nutritionist, AKUH, agreed and spoke at length about the importance of a balanced diet as perhaps the most effective preventive tool available. “We are beginning to see unhealthy lifestyles develop in Pakistan, as we are consuming more fatty foods and becoming less mobile,” she said. “The whole family needs to eat a more balanced diet not only to prevent future cases of diabetes but to help diabetics feel less isolated.”
Stressing the need for diabetics to be vigilant about their feet, Ms Farzana Rafiq, Diabetes Education Nurse said that foot problems are common and can become serious. This makes it essential for diabetics to get their feet checked by their health care provider at least once a year and learn whether they have nerve damage. Patients with known nerve or blood vessel damage should check and care for their feet every single day. This can be done by examining the feet thoroughly and washing them in lukewarm water using a mild soap. Ms Rafiq stressed that it was vitally important for diabetics to dry their feet thoroughly as wet areas are more prone to infection.
Diabetes is manageable – we just have to learn to manage it.
Hassaan Akhter, Media Executive, Department of Public Affairs, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, on +92 021 3486 2927 or email@example.com