Diabetes - A Global Epidemic
When you hear
the word epidemic, you may likely think of diseases that plague
thousands of people in less developed countries far away. However,
epidemics are not exclusive to such places. In fact, the world's most
widespread epidemics strike a lot closer to home than you may think.
An epidemic is
defined as a disease that has come to affect a large portion of a given
population. The exact parameters differ among experts but a good
estimation puts the number at around 3% of a population. If the number
of people affected by the disease reaches this number, it can be
considered an epidemic.
definition, people living in developed countries of the world are not
exempt from a growing global epidemic - one that has seen little
attention until recently.
Diabetes is now
considered an epidemic that is affecting not just a select number of
countries but the entire globe. It joins a short, but unfortunately,
growing list of diseases of which, HIV/AIDS is part.
the disease's spread are alarming. The World Health Organization (WHO)
pegs the number of diabetes patients to reach 240 million people
worldwide by the year 2010.
comes in two forms: Type I and Type II. Both, however, are similar in
that both types involve the hormone insulin in the body and its ability
to process sugar in the bloodstream. Too much or too little sugar in
the body has adverse effects ranging from kidney failure, eyesight
loss, and in extreme cases, coma.
Type I diabetes
occurs when the immune system attacks the insulin-forming cells in the
pancreas, misled into thinking that these cells are harmful. The
pancreas therefore fails to produce insulin leading to a heightened
level of sugar in the body, which puts stresses the kidneys, leading to
Most of the
patients demonstrate the disease's symptoms at around 15 years of age,
although the disease may have already been contracted years before. It
is because of this that experts have interchanged the term Type I
diabetes with "juvenile onset diabetes".
However, recently, this practice has been set aside in light of the
alarmingly increasing number of young people contracting Type II
diabetes (also known as "adult onset diabetes") is characterized by the
body's failure to process sugar in the bloodstream despite the fact
that insulin is produced by the pancreas. This could be because not
enough insulin is produced or that the body simply does not respond to
it. This form of diabetes accounts for 90 percent of the estimated 300
million cases of the disease worldwide.
There is a huge
correlation between Type II diabetes and obesity. Most obese
individuals lead a sedentary lifestyle, while consuming food high in
carbohydrates, sugars and fat. These poor eating habits coupled with
the lack / absence of physical activity increases the volume of sugar
in the bloodstream. The pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to meet
the demands of processing so much sugar and therefore diabetes sets in.
unchecked, the complications arising from diabetes are many and adverse.
is the degeneration of the retina of the eye, leading to loss of sight.
diseases / failure sets in when the organ finally breaks down due to
the excessive stress from filtering too much sugar in the blood.
system disorders are experienced by around half of diabetes sufferers.
Symptoms such as impaired sensation in the limbs, carpal tunnel
syndrome, and even impotence have been recorded among diabetics. When
sensation is impaired in the limbs, infection from injuries may
progress without being noticed, leading to no other resort but
- Diabetic coma
(diabetic ketoacidosis) occurs when a patient becomes severely
dehydrated and metabolism is greatly imbalanced. Since the cells in the
body are starved of energy, the entire body shuts down leading to a
complications, however, pale in comparison to the number of lives that
are lost every year due to diabetes. As of now, the number of deaths
related to the disease is placed at around 4 million annually.
But perhaps the
greater tragedy is the fact that the adverse effect of diabetes
(particularly with Type II) could have been prevented. But seen from a
different point of view, that is also part of the good news. By
observing a healthy lifestyle of eating and exercising right, the
chances of leading a full and productive life despite the disease are
Start with the
selection of the right food and its intake in the proper amounts.
Consultation with a medical professional will inform you on what is
right for your body type.
habit of physical exercises throughout the day. A regimented workout
schedule may not be necessary. Walking and doing manual household
chores may be sufficient. Again, consult with your doctor to know what
is appropriate for you.
If you are
diabetic, or at risk of it, or if you know someone who is, take the
time to share this information and learn more about it. If the proper
information and motivation is shared enough, there still may be a
chance to reverse the tide of this global epidemic.