Diabetes on the rise

More than 3/4 of the respondents (77 percent) from the Philippines believe that diabetes is inherited from their parents.

About 32 percent of those who were included in the survey are willing to change their diet to support a member of their family with diabetes, and 47 percent are willing to exercise with a diabetic family member.

These findings were part of the five-year Sun Life Financial Asia Diabetes Awareness Study in the region. It was conducted in October 2018 through online interviews with 3,860 respondents aged 25 years old and above in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“The study aims at understanding the public’s awareness of diabetes and identify the gaps in preventive measures they are willing to take to combat this prevalent health challenge,” said Jeremy Young, Sun Life Financial Asia’s chief marketing officer.

To think, the Philippines has one of the highest number of diabetics in the region.  “The number of Filipinos with diabetes is growing at an alarming rate,” wrote Anne Ruth dela Cruz in an article published in the BusinessMirror. “The numbers, however, could be higher than reported because there are Filipinos who have not been diagnosed with the disease.”

The Philippines ranks fifth behind China, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand in the number of diabetes cases, according to the Western Pacific Region of the International Diabetes Federation, an umbrella organization of over 230 national diabetes associations in 170 countries and territories.

With the current population at over 100 million, the Philippines has more than 5 million diagnosed with diabetes.

The foundation noted that some 50,000 diabetic Filipinos died in 2017 due to diabetes-related complications like heart attack, stroke, and kidney and heart failure.

“If nothing is done to stem the alarming trend,” de la Cruz wrote, “the prevalence of diabetes is expected to soar to 20 percent by the year 2045, and more than 100,000 Filipinos would be dying every year due to its complications.”

Diabetes, as defined by the Merck Manual of Medical Information is “a disorder in which blood sugar [glucose] levels are abnormally high because the body does not produce enough insulin.”

Before probing deeper, let’s discuss first this hormone released from the pancreas called insulin. “Insulin controls the amount of sugar in the blood,” explains the Merck Manual.  “When a person eats or drinks, food is broken down into materials, including sugar that the body needs to function.

“Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream and stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin,” the manual further explains. “Insulin allows sugar to move from the blood into the cells.  Once inside the cells, sugar is converted to energy, which is either used immediately or stored until it is needed.”

The levels of sugar in our blood vary normally throughout the day.   “They rise after a meal and return to normal within about two hours after eating,” the Merck Manual informs.  “Once the levels of sugar in the blood return to normal, insulin production decreases.”

But with diabetes, something goes awry, health experts claim.  The pancreas becomes irresponsible.  It either stops producing the hormone completely or else produces too much, which leads to insulin resistance.  Either way, concentration of sugar in the blood shoots sky-high.

Of course, the body tries to eliminate the sugar. “The best way to do that is via the urine,” says Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, author of The Best Treatment. “But since the kidneys can’t excrete sugar in lump form, the body must provide enough water to dilute or dissolve the sugar in order to flush it out.”

The net result of all this is that the person will spend more and more time in the bathroom to void the sugar and at the water tap to drink the much-needed extra water.  This is the basis of why the cardinal signs of untreated diabetes are frequent urination and great thirst.  In women, the urine rich in sugar provides a good medium for fungus to grow in the vagina, hence the vaginal itching.

Actually, there are two forms of diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes) is caused by a reduction in the level of insulin.  The body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, causing insulin deficiency.  As a result, individuals with this type of diabetes need regular insulin injections to maintain glucose control.

In contrast, type 2 diabetes (also called as non-insulin-dependent diabetes) arises in the first instance not because there is a lack of insulin, but because the body fails to respond to circulating insulin effectively.  This condition is known as insulin resistance.  For this reason, newly diagnosed individuals do not require insulin injections.

“If you look at the spread of the scourge around the world, type 2 diabetes occurs as a country advances technologically, when people come out of the fields to sit behind desks,” notes Dr. Irwin Brodsky, director of the Diabetes Treatment Program at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Type 2 is the strain most people fear.  This is the real epidemic, accounting for 85 to 90 percent of diabetes cases in the country. “Getting diagnosed early is important because most of its serious complications are preventable,” assures Dr. Marie Yvette Rosales-Amante, who had her fellowship in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Massachusetts.

Diabetes is associated with a range of complications that are largely related to damaged blood vessels and nerve cells caused by consistently high blood glucose concentrations. These complications include: retinopathy (eye problems, in some cases leading to blindness), nephropathy (kidney disease), neuropathy (nerve disease, which can lead to the need for amputation), heart attack, stroke, frequent infections and impotence.

The Philippine Diabetes Association, an umbrella organization of all associations involved in the care of the diabetic patients, attributes the increase of diabetic incidence in the Philippines to the lifestyle and culture of Filipinos. “For one, Filipinos love to eat,” it says.  “Rice is the Filipinos’ staple food.”

The Sun Life survey found out that most Filipinos know that a high-carbohydrates diet (76 percent), in addition to lack of exercise (65 percent), is a high-risk factor for diabetes.

Image Credits: WWW.FREEPIK.COM

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