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HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT

Before the pandemic of COVID-19 brought healthcare to its knees, Diabetes was already a global epidemic with more than 420 million people living with this dreaded disease worldwide. November is declared National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the world team up to bring attention to diabetes. When you consider that one in two of the people who have diabetes go by undiagnosed, it is easy to understand why an awareness month is needed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this number is estimated to rise to 570 million by 2030 and to 700 million by 2045 because so many are not aware they’re living with the disease and all the health risks that poorly managed blood sugar can pose. At this pivotal moment, with COVID-19 still spreading, many people who need treatment for diabetes are not receiving the appropriate screening for diagnosis, health services and medications they need.

WORLD DIABETES DAY – WHY NOVEMBER 14TH?

World Diabetes Day was jointly introduced by the WHO and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The global diabetes awareness campaign was introduced amidst concern over an escalating diabetes epidemic.

November 14th is a significant date in the diabetes calendar because it marks the birthday of the man who co-discovered insulin, Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin, alongside Charles Best.

FACTS (as stated by WHO)

One in two adults with diabetes are unaware of their status.

Four out of five adults with undiagnosed diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries.

Persons unaware of their status are at great risk of debilitating complications.

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.

People with diabetes are also at increased risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19, and this poor prognosis seems to be heightened with advanced age.

DEBUNKING MYTHS

There are several myths about diabetes that are all too commonly reported as facts. These misrepresentations of diabetes can sometimes be harmful and lead to an unfair stigma around the condition. Among all the different ideas that can spread due to misinformation and a lack of education, we have picked out five myths about diabetes that can make diagnosis especially difficult to process:

MYTH 1: TYPE 2 DIABETES ONLY AFFECTS FAT PEOPLE

FACT: Whilst type 2 diabetes is often associated with being overweight and obese, it is demonstrably untrue that type 2 diabetes only affects overweight people.

Around 20% of people with type 2 diabetes are of a normal weight, or underweight.

MYTH 2: IF YOU TAKE INSULIN YOU HAVE TYPE 1 DIABETES

FACT: Many people with type 2 diabetes also use insulin. Some people can manage their blood sugar levels through healthy lifestyle choices and with the addition of other medications. However, as type 2 diabetes progresses, medication and lifestyle changes alone may not be enough and insulin can be a safe and effective treatment for keeping you healthy.

MYTH 3: PEOPLE WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES MUST ELIMINATE SWEETS/CARBOHYDRATES

FACT: Carbohydrates may raise blood glucose levels as they are broken down into glucose to provide energy for the body. A healthy, balanced diet including carbohydrates is recommended by the International Diabetic Federation in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. People with type 2 diabetes should however, monitor their carbohydrate consumption and glycemic index of foods closely, to ensure that they have enough energy, while not triggering high blood sugar levels.

It does mean having sweets/carbohydrates in moderation and decreasing portion sizes, while ensuring they are counted into your total carbohydrate intake. The best way to determine how you are handling the extra sweets/treats, is to check your blood sugar two hours after you eat.

However, carbohydrates are present in a variety of food (including fruit and vegetables), which may also be important sources of other nutrients. Hence, it may not be practical to totally avoid carbohydrates. Consult a dietician, who can offer advice on a suitable diet for diabetic patients.

MYTH 4: A HIGH-PROTEIN DIET IS BEST FOR DIABETIC PATIENTS

FACT: There are two falsehoods in this statement alone! A high-protein diet is not better for diabetic people, nor is any fad diet good for anyone to follow. The only diet you need is the one that is right for you and your body. High-protein diets have been linked to insulin resistance in diabetic patients, so stick to your balanced regimen as guided by your physician and/or dietician.

MYTH 5: WOMEN WITH GESTATIONAL DIABETES WILL GO ON TO DEVELOP TYPE 2 DIABETES

FACT: While studies have shown that women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in their future, it is far from a forgone conclusion. There may be things that you can do to reduce your risk, including maintaining a healthy body weight, eating balanced meals with lots of vegetables, and exercising regularly, for example walking for at least 30 minutes five days per week.

We hope this clears unfortunate stigmas and misinformation associated with Diabetes. One thing to be certain of, it is a disease that complicates the quality of one’s life but awareness, early treatment and controlled management are crucial to reducing the complex sequelae.

Look out for the HEALTH PLUS special publication on November 17th dedicated to DIABETES MELLITUS.