World Diabetes Day: Silent But Not Unbeatable
On World Diabetes Day, we bring much-needed attention to the fight against the notorious villain known as “diabetes mellitus”.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, resulting from either the body’s inability to produce insulin, known as Type 1, or the body’s cells becoming resistant to insulin, known as Type 2.
Both types can lead to serious complications, including heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure.
With an estimated 537 million adults living with diabetes worldwide, the need for awareness and action has never been greater.
The Birthday of Insulin’s Founding Father
The International Diabetes Federation established World Diabetes Day in 1991 to serve as a global platform to raise diabetes awareness, promote preventive methods, and urge for improved accessibility to diabetes care.
The goal of the day is to inspire people to take charge of their own health and the health of their communities through a wide range of activities, campaigns, and projects.
The date of November 14 was chosen because it’s the birthday of Frederick Banting who is considered to be the main founding father of insulin.
In 1922, he and his colleagues, John James Rickard Macleod and Charles Herbert Best, created this magical potion that made living with diabetes much more comfortable.
The Origins of World Diabetes Day
In an effort to address the increasing global impact of diabetes, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered in 1991 to create World Diabetes Day.
Early detection and management, regular blood sugar checks, a healthy lifestyle, and adherence to prescribed medications are essential steps in managing diabetes effectively.
World Diabetes Day is not confined to one corner of the globe; it’s a worldwide event with over 230 IDF member associations participating in more than 160 countries and territories.
Tracing the Timeline of Diabetes
Early references to diabetes mellitus date back to ancient Egypt, where hieroglyphic inscriptions described symptoms like excessive thirst and urination.
The term “diabetes mellitus” was coined in the second century AD by Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia, who was referring to the sweet taste of urine observed in those with the condition.
The word “diabetes” is a combination of two words: “diabētēs” meaning “to siphon through” and “siphon” referring to a tube or pipe.This effectively describes the essence of the condition, which is characterized by increased urination or fluid depleting caused by high blood sugar levels.
Mellitus translates to “sweetened by honey” or “sweet as honey.” The term “diabetes mellitus” means “sweet urine”.
In the 18th century, Thomas Willis, an English physician, recognized the role of the pancreas in diabetes.
However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the concept of insulin emerged, revolutionizing diabetes management.
In 1921, Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolated insulin, paving the way for insulin injections as a treatment for diabetes the following year.
Insulin injections were a game-changer that transformed diabetes from a potential death sentence to a manageable condition.
Symptoms of Diabetes: Recognizing the Signs
Diabetes is what happens when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin (type-1) or when the body becomes resistant to insulin’s effects (type-2).
As the body’s main energy source, glucose is absorbed from the bloodstream into cells with the help of the hormone insulin. When insulin is lacking or ineffective, glucose remains in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels that deregulate the body.
Common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst and urination: As the kidneys try to excrete excess glucose, individuals with diabetes may experience increased thirst and urination.
- Unexplained weight loss: Despite adequate food intake, individuals with diabetes may experience unintended weight loss due to the body’s inability to utilize glucose effectively.
- Fatigue and weakness: High blood sugar levels can deplete energy stores, leading to fatigue and weakness.
- Blurred vision: High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the eyes, leading to blurred vision.
- Slow-healing sores: High blood sugar levels can impair circulation and nerve function, making it difficult for wounds to heal properly.
How to Tame the Diabetes Dragon
Effective diabetes management involves a combination of lifestyle modifications and medication. Lifestyle changes include:
- Dietary modifications: A balanced diet low in processed foods and sugars can help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Regular physical activity: Exercise promotes insulin sensitivity and helps control blood sugar levels.
- Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight can significantly improve diabetes management.
In addition to lifestyle changes, individuals with diabetes may require medication to control blood sugar levels.
Medications may include:
- Insulin therapy: Insulin injections or insulin pumps deliver insulin to the body to regulate blood sugar levels.
- Oral medications: Various oral medications can be used to stimulate insulin production, increase insulin sensitivity, or reduce glucose production by the liver.
It’s a lifelong balancing act between diet, exercise, and medical interventions, each step crucial in managing the condition and enhancing the quality of life for those on this health journey.
How You Can Help
Each of us has a role to play in raising awareness, promoting prevention, and supporting those affected by diabetes.
Here are some ways you can make a difference:
- Educate yourself and others: Learn about diabetes, its symptoms, complications, and prevention strategies. Share information about diabetes and World Diabetes Day with family, friends, colleagues and on your social platforms.
- Support organizations working to fight diabetes: Donate to or volunteer for organizations dedicated to diabetes research, advocacy, and patient support.
- Promote healthy lifestyles: Encourage healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, and weight management in your community.
- Advocate for better healthcare access: Support policies that ensure equitable access to diabetes prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services.
Don’t underestimate the power of your voice and actions; every share, every conversation, and every initiative helps to combat diabetes.
World Diabetes Day serves as a reminder that we are not alone in this journey.
Together, we can make a difference in the lives of millions affected by diabetes. Share the knowledge, support those on their health journeys, and together, let’s compose a world where diabetes takes a backseat to hope and health.
The curtain falls, but the mission continues – until next November 14!