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What is diabetes?

HEALTH DIALOGUE
DIABETES is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
What causes diabetes?
The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach). When food is digested and enters your blood stream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into the cells, where it is broken down to produce energy. However, if you have diabetes, your body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there is either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or the insulin produced does not work properly.
There are two main types of diabetes and a temporary form:
• Type 1 Diabetes: The body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. This insulin dependent, is also called juvenile diabetes or early-onset diabetes because it usually develops before the age of 40, often during teenage years.
• Type 2 Diabetes: This is where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance. This is more common in most parts of the world and is often associated with obesity it is sometimes referred to as maturity-onset diabetes because it is more common in older people.
• Gestational Diabetes: During pregnancy, some women have such high levels of blood glucose because their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes and affects five percent of pregnant women. In most cases, develops during the second trimester of pregnancy (14-26 weeks) and disappears after the baby is born.
Who should test for diabetes? Ideally, you should be tested for glucose tolerance every two years. The following should have their glucose levels checked at least twice a year:
a) People over 40 years
b) People with a relative with the condition
c) People who are overweight or obese
How is diabetes treated?
Diabetes cannot be cured, but treatment aims to keep your blood glucose levels as normal as possible, and control your symptoms to prevent health problems developing later.
Type 1: Regular insulin treatment to keep your glucose levels normal.
Type 2: Lifestyle change: Increased physical activity, reduced calorie intake and smoking cessation are the three greatest ways to control diabetes early.
Oral medication: If not controlled by diet and exercise, you will be prescribed oral medicine that reduces the high levels of blood glucose
Insulin treatment: If glucose-lowering tablets are not effective in controlling your blood glucose levels, you may need to have insulin treatment.
Hypoglycaemia:  Is a condition in which your blood glucose levels become very low. Mild hypoglycaemia can make you feel shaky, weak and hungry, but it can usually be controlled by eating or drinking something sugary.
Living with diabetes
Having diabetes is a lifelong disease and people with it should take care of themselves to prevent getting complications of this disease such as heart disease and stroke, nerve damage, retinopathy, kidney disease, foot problems, sexual dysfunction miscarriage and stillbirth.
It is important for those living with diabetes to take care of their feet and hands, cut nails properly and avoid hurting fingers and toes as people with uncontrolled sugar levels are more prone to developing akin infections, which if left untreated or not treated correctly may lead to loss of a finger, toe or even a limb (leg or arm).
A diabetic diet is also very important to help control the amount of glucose that enters the body. This involves avoiding refined foods and consuming more brown rice, roller meal, brown bread, root vegetables, green vegetables and protein. Diabetics should try to avoid taking in too much processed fats (deep fried foods).
For more information on diabetes, email 990health@champ.org.zm

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