What you need to know about diabetes and how to prevent it

Dr Lau Pik Onn / 18 Oct, 2022

What is diabetes? What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Everyday, the food that we consume is broken down into nutrients that our body uses for energy, growth, and cell repair.

In a normal person, food is broken down into sugar (glucose), which is released into the bloodstream. This causes a rise in your blood sugar levels, signalling your pancreas to release a hormone known as insulin, which facilitates the entry of glucose into our cells for energy use.

With diabetes, your body does not produce sufficient insulin or is resistant to the effects of insulin. When this occurs, too much sugar remains in the bloodstream. Eventually, this can lead to disorders of the circulatory, immune, and nervous system.

What are the 2 types of diabetes?What are the 2 types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes  Type 2 diabetes 
Who is affected?  Usually develops in children, teens, and young adults, but it can occur at any age Usually develops in adults who are overweight or obese, but it can occur in children too
What causes it? The individual’s immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing (islet) cells in the pancreas. Little to no insulin is being produced, resulting in high blood sugar levels The individual is able to produce insulin, but the body becomes resistant to its effects. Cells are unable to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar levels

How is it diagnosed?


Diabetes is diagnosed by checking your glucose levels through a blood test, like fasting glucose test, HBA1c test, and a oral glucose tolerance test

How is it treated?  The individual would have to be treated with insulin  

Some individuals may be able to control their blood glucose levels by making lifestyle changes, such as reducing their weight and becoming more active. They may also have to be treated with medication if it is not well controlled.


Prevention Prevention

Incorporate a healthy diet

Consuming foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugar increase your blood sugar levels, which increases your risk of developing diabetes. Limiting your total carbohydrate intake and consuming foods that don’t cause spikes in your blood sugar levels can help to reduce your chances of developing diabetes.

Lose weight

Excess fat around your waist (visceral fat) builds up around your organs, such as the liver and the pancreas. This is associated with insulin resistance. Therefore, losing this weight can reduce your chances of developing diabetes.

Engage in physical activity

A lack of exercise can cause your cells to be resistant to insulin in the long-term, hence increasing your risk of developing diabetes. MOH guidelines suggest incorporating at least 300 minutes of moderate physical exercises each week.

Quit or reduce smoking

The chemicals in cigarettes can harm your body’s cells and can interfere with their functions and processes. This can result in inflammation throughout your body, which can decrease your body’s responsiveness to insulin. If you need help with quitting smoking, do reach out to a healthcare professional.



For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Cigarette Smoking: A Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes. (2020, May 4). FDA. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-effects-tobacco-use/cigarette-smoking-risk-factor-type-2-diabetes
  2. Lai, M. O. Y., & Koh, L. W. P. (2021, February 8). War on Diabetes in Singapore: a policy analysis. Health Research Policy and Systems, 19(15). BMC. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12961-021-00678-1
  3. Onn, L. P. (2019, November 14). Taking control of diabetes — Icon Health Screening. Icon Health Screening. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://iconhealthscreening.sg/en/diabetes/
  4. Singapore’s Physical Activity Guidelines Revised to Tackle Sedentarism and Promote Variation in Physical Activity. (2022, June 12). Health Promotion Board. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://hpb.gov.sg/article/singapore-s-physical-activity-guidelines-revised-to-tackle-sedentarism-and-promote-variation-in-physical-activity
  5. What is diabetes? | CDC. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html


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