Ripples

Starvation in the midst of plenty: A brief description of Diabetes mellitus

By: Panyin Bamfo-Addo

Diabetes Mellitus is a long-standing disorder of the chemical processes of the human body, characterized by high blood glucose levels (Hyperglycaemia). It is caused by a defect in the production, secretion or absorption of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins by promoting their absorption from the blood into the liver, fat and muscle cells.

Globally an estimated 422 million adults are living with diabetes mellitus according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) with the greatest increase in prevalence occurring in low and middle income countries in Asia and Africa. In Ghana, studies in the general population estimates that between 3.3% and 6% of the population have diabetes with the prevalence increasing with age and being higher in urban than rural areas. Other studies also suggest prevalence being significantly higher in females, compared to males.

Diabetes Mellitus can be classified into three types;

  1. Type 1 diabetes mellitus which is also known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), results from the pancreas’s failure to produce enough insulin. Individuals with this type need external administration of insulin.
  2. Type 2 or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) which is caused by insulin resistance (a state in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly) and a relative deficiency in insulin secretion. Individuals with this type might require external insulin administration, but they are mostly managed on oral hypoglycaemic
  3. Gestational Diabetes Mellitus; this type develops during some cases of pregnancy especially in the second and third trimester when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop high blood glucose levels but usually disappears after delivery.

So in all situations, there is a state of the body not being able to utilize the abundance of sugar in the body. The abundance of sugar, when uncontrolled, may lead to increased in thirst and urination, poor wound healing, heart diseases, eye diseases, nerve damage and kidney damage.

Certain known risk factors include family history, obesity, habitual physical inactivity, hypertension, certain medications and trauma to the pancreas. WHO Global Report stated that the increase in incidence of diabetes mellitus in developing countries could be due to urbanization, lifestyle changes, sedentary lifestyles, less physically demanding work and global nutrition transition, marked by increased intake of foods that are often high in sugar and saturated fats ( high energy-dense but nutrient-poor). It also estimated that diabetes resulted in 1.5million deaths in 2012, making it the 8th leading cause of death.

It is therefore essential to adopt certain healthy lifestyle choices to prevent this disorder. Eating foods lower in fats and calories and higher in fibre, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Also avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake. Getting more physical activity, eg. Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day can go a long way to help reduce the risk for diabetes mellitus. Lose excess pounds if you are overweight, losing even 7% of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes. Have your blood sugar checked at least once a year to know that you haven’t developed type 2 diabetes.

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