Diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar in the blood. Every day, the food we eat is broken down into glucose. In a normal person, insulin (manufactured by an organ called the pancreas) acts on cells throughout the body to stimulate uptake, utilisation and storage of glucose. People who are diabetic do not produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the insulin produced does not work well (type 2 diabetes). As a result, sugar builds up in the blood causing diabetes.
In Singapore, statistics show that about one in every 10 Singaporeans have diabetes which has almost doubled among those 50 years and above. It is a serious chronic medical condition and is a growing concern in Singapore.
Screening and diagnosis
Diabetes is diagnosed through a blood test. If you have symptoms, it may be possible to diagnose diabetes through a type of blood test known as a fasting blood glucose test. However, if your blood sugar is not very high, you may require separate blood tests on different days or an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).
Who is at risk?
Risk factors for diabetes include:
Family history of diabetes
Being overweight (BMI of 25 or higher)
Inactive or sedentary lifestyle
High blood pressure
Raised cholesterol levels
Above the age of 40
Past history of diabetes during pregnancy
Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting blood glucose (pre-diabetes state)
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
Frequent thirst despite drinking lots of water
Passing excessive urine during the day and night
Weight loss despite good appetite
Itchy skin especially around the genital area
Poor healing of cuts and wounds
What are the complications of diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious chronic medical condition and can affect almost every part of the body. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to high blood glucose (hyperglycemia) and low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), which can lead to severe complications.
Long term complications of diabetes include:
Coronary heart disease such as heart attack
Eye complications such as blindness or impaired vision
Foot disease such as numbness, ulcers and gangrene
Nerve disease leading to problems of impotence
Although there is presently no known cure for diabetes, it can be controlled and complications can be prevented. We also know that the risk of developing diabetes can be reduced by leading an active and healthy lifestyle.
Treatment for diabetes includes diet modification, lifestyle changes, oral medication and insulin injections.
Have a well-balanced diet
Use the healthy diet pyramid to ensure a well-balanced diet. It’s important to consume a variety of foods from all food groups within the recommended servings
Eat more whole grains and vegetables
Eat more food rich in proteins but low in fats and cholesterol like lean meat , fish, legumes and nuts
Reduce food high in oil, sugar and salt
Consult your doctor or dietitian who can support you in managing your diet and nutritional needs
Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
You should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Exercise helps to prevent onset of complications, controls your weight and keeps the heart healthy.
Quit or reduce smoking
It’s important to quit smoking if you are currently a smoker, as it can increase the risk of heart disease by reducing blood flow to many organs, especially in diabetic people. Speak to your doctor to help you quit smoking.