People start thinking of diabetes only when a family member or a friend is diagnosed with it. This is vastly due to lack of knowledge and not being health conscious. Only when warning signs start appearing, they put efforts in the direction of prevention of diabetes.
However, most efforts done for prevention of diabetes might be unscientific. Cutting out sugar from tea or coffee and not consuming sweets might not be enough! In order to be successful in prevention of diabetes, it is important to understand its nature so that you can take exact measures.
What is diabetes and how does it affect the body?
Diabetes is a condition that can arise due to two reasons. In the first cause, there isn’t enough insulin in the body and so the blood sugar levels have shot up. This is called diabetes type 1. In the second cause, the tissues of the body are unable to respond to the insulin produced. Even this leads to high blood sugar levels and is called diabetes type 2.
In both cases insulin plays a key role. This is because insulin is like a key that unlocks cells of adipose and skeletal muscle tissues. Only after insulin unlocks the cells, glucose formed after digestion of food enters them to provide energy.
Since glucose cannot enter the cells, it remains in the bloodstream and so causes high blood sugar levels. Over a period of time, high blood sugar levels tend to damage blood vessels and nerves in the body. As the small blood vessels and nerves of internal organs are damaged, their function is impaired. In many cases, damage to the organs becomes permanent.
Complications of diabetes
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Diabetic nephropathy
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Diabetic foot disease
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Heart disease
Prevention of Diabetes
Why type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented
It is natural that you would want to avoid all these serious complications by avoiding diabetes. However, diabetes takes a long time to develop and it does not give any warning signs while it is developing in your body.
While it is possible in most cases to avoid type 2 diabetes, it is not possible to avoid type 1 diabetes. This is because diabetes type 1 is an autoimmune disease and affects people early in their childhood. The peak age of incidence of diabetes type 1 is 10 to 14 years.
Among other causes, diabetes type 1 is caused due to genetic factors. Certain gene variants like HLA-DQA1, HLA-DQB1, HLA-DRB1, HNF1A, IL2RA, FOXP3, CCR5, CTLA4, INS, IL6, ITPR3, OAS1, SUMO4, and PTPN22 are responsible for type 1 diabetes. People with variations in these genes are more likely to develop autoantibodies to the beta cells of pancreas which produce insulin.
When beta cells of pancreas develop autoantibodies, these autoantibodies start seeing beta cells as invaders in the body and destroy them. When beta cells are destroyed, the production of insulin in the body is severely compromised.
Other factors that lead to the destruction of beta cells include environmental factors, vitamin D deficiency, dairy products, and viral infections like enterovirus and rubella infections. These factors combine and lead to autoantibodies that target the beta cells in the pancreas. This leads to the destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells.
The destruction of beta cells in the pancreas happens rapidly and often there are no warning signs to indicate this occurrence. Till a significant amount of beta cells are destroyed and the production of insulin is reduced, a person does not exhibit symptoms of diabetes.
Prevention of diabetes type 2
Type 2 diabetes develops in the body much slower when compared to type 1 diabetes as the origins of type 2 diabetes are metabolic in nature. Type 2 diabetes is defined as a variable metabolic syndrome. It is characterized by insulin resistance.
Pancreas secretes insulin from the beta cells. It functions as a chemical messenger and allows cells to absorb glucose for energy. Insulin also assists in many other metabolic functions including brain function. As insulin enters the brain, there is increased learning and memory. So, if you are experiencing brain fog, it is better to get tested for diabetes.
Insulin is released in response to the foods we eat. As food is digested, it is converted into glucose. Glucose is energy to cells of the body, but it can enter the cells only with the assistance of insulin. This is because insulin is a chemical messenger that allows glucose uptake in adipose tissue and skeletal muscles.
In people with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, cells of adipose tissue and skeletal muscles do not respond to insulin secreted. The result of this is that glucose and fatty acid uptake is restricted. This further leads to high blood glucose levels and high cholesterol in diabetes.
Before going to full blown diabetes, a person experiences a stage called prediabetes. In this stage, there is impaired glucose tolerance.
This is a stage between normal blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes. In people with prediabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, blood sugar levels are higher than non-diabetic people, but these are not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. People with prediabetes have hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, obesity, and high cholesterol levels.
Progression from prediabetes to diabetes might take anywhere between 3 to 5 years, but there is no certainty of the exact timeframe. It depends upon environmental factors, and genetics.
Factors like lifestyle, diet, physical activity, obesity, smoking, stress, and others influence the development of diabetes. People who want to work on prevention of diabetes must concentrate on these.
Factors that lead to diabetes
- Genetic factors
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Obesity, high body mass index
- Central obesity
- Age above 35 yrs.
- Poor dietary choices
- Ailments like PCOS, high cholesterol, thyroid problems
Addressing risk factors related to lifestyle, diet, weight, and general health can work for prevention of diabetes.
Tips for prevention of diabetes
Reach ideal body mass index. If you are overweight or have obesity, you should begin working on a weight loss regimen including exercise, and diet modification. It is said that if a person reduces 10 to 15% of the body weight, it is possible to prevent diabetes. Follow a diabetic diet as per the advice of a dietician or a doctor.
Nutritious food involves consuming right amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. They are vital for the body to keep functioning. However, exceeding required amounts leads to weight gain and health problems. A diet full of whole grains, cereals, vegetables, fruits, low-fat cooking oils, and dietary fiber is important. Regulate portion sizes in each meal.
Avoid added sugars, trans fats, refined flour, and regulate intake of red meat. Opt for lean meat, whole-fat dairy in limited quantities.
For weight loss, aerobic workout, resistance training, and yoga are good.
Go for a stress management technique you are comfortable with
Get yourself tested frequently. Get tests like fasting blood glucose test, postprandial blood glucose test, HbA1c, lipid profile test, and BP test.
With these measures, you can certainly succeed in prevention of diabetes.