Many more remain undiagnosed and it is estimated that another five million South Africans have ‘prediabetes’ – a condition that leads to diabetes where insulin resistance causes blood sugar levels to rise above normal.
A sugar problem or an insulin problem?
In my opinion, diabetes is more a condition of insulin dysfunction, rather than a sugar imbalance.
In normal, healthy individuals, the pancreas releases the powerful hormone Insulin, which converts glucose into the fuel needed by every cell in the body.
The problem arises when insulin either becomes resistant (Type 2 diabetes), or fails entirely to be produced by the pancreatic cells (Type 1 diabetes).
As a result, glucose levels rise in the blood stream and can have detrimental effects if poorly managed or detected very late in the disease process.
Gestational diabetes may also occur in women during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, genetics, and lifestyle factors.
Recognise risk factors and symptoms
The key to prevention lies in identifying the top risk factors which include being overweight or obese, older than age 45, excess fat around the waist, family history of diabetes, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Symptoms to watch out for are persistent fatigue, excessive thirst or hunger, weight fluctuations, blurred vision and frequent urination.
Getting your blood glucose and insulin tested annually is a great first step under these circumstances.
Lifestyle Factors and “Diabesity”
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) predicts that diabetes cases in Africa will double by 2030!
There are currently 14 million diabetics in Africa and the main causes for this increase are urbanisation and obesity.
Adopting a Westernised diet high in sugar, fats and processed foods, along with little to no exercise, are major contributors.
In fact, this link is so strong according to researchers, that a new term ‘diabesity’ has been coined.
An article in the journal Diabetologia highlights the impact of sugary soft drinks, and reports that drinking just one can of soda per day raises diabetes risk by 22%!
Diabetes can be prevented and treated effectively and should not be an obstacle to realising your dreams and ambitions – just ask famous diabetics Halle Barry, Sharon Stone or Olympic medalist, Sir Steven Redgrave!