In the 21st century, diabetes is now known as a modern epidemic – and rightly so. This chronic disease can affect just about anyone and has a lot to do with our lifestyles and diet. With obesity and sedentary behaviours at an all-time high, diabetes is also becoming more and more prevalent.

Of course, it isn’t only our lifestyle that can result in diabetes; our genetic makeup also plays a dominant role. People with a family history of diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing this problem than those without a history.

In Singapore, about 9% of the adult population has diabetes, and the statistics only seem to be rising.

What Exactly Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition when the insulin produced in our body can no longer suppress sugar levels in our blood. A high blood sugar level even when you haven’t eaten anything is classical of diabetes.

When diabetes first kicks in, the initial symptoms can be increased thirst, increased appetite, and frequently urinating.

Types of Diabetes

Insulin is an important hormone that is involved in keeping blood sugar levels at bay by helping cells of our body absorb the sugar.

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1, where there is a complete deficiency of insulin; and Type 2, where insulin is present, but the cells of the body become resistant to it.

Type 1 diabetes is much more common in children, whereas Type 2 tends to occur at an older age because of poor lifestyle habits. Because of increasing childhood obesity, Type 2 is now also seen in children.

Consequences of Diabetes

If your blood sugar levels are not appropriately controlled, they can cause a range of complications, including:

· Heart diseases

· Stroke

· Renal problems

· Nerve problems

· Defective vision

· Coma

How is Diabetes Treated?

People with Type 1 diabetes are given insulin as a daily injection that they can self-inject.

Those with Type 2 diabetes are managed with proper diet, exercise and oral diabetic medication.

How is Diabetes Prevented?

Important risk factors for diabetes are overweight (particularly central obesity), smoking, lack of exercise and a poor diet.

By controlling these risk factors, there’s a good chance you can prevent diabetes altogether or at least stop it from getting worse.