Diabetes is one of the most common diseases1 that lead to mortality in the Philippines. If you don't prevent it from progressing, further health complications such as heart, nerve, and kidney damage will arise. You're at risk of getting diabetes if you have a family history of the disease, you're overweight/obese, or you have high cholesterol.
If you want to know more about diabetes, this guide and diabetes infographic will give you an overview of the frequently asked questions about the disease.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes2 is a condition in which your pancreas can no longer make enough insulin, a hormone that helps glucose (blood sugar) from food get into your cells so that you can use it for energy.
When you don't have enough insulin, your glucose stays in your blood because nothing is helping it reach your cells. This event causes your blood sugar to be high. When not controlled, your high glucose levels can damage your body and cause organ failure.
Main Types of Diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes3: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
Your body makes little to no insulin because your immune system attacks the cells in your pancreas that make the insulin. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age. However, it's mostly common among children and adolescents. To manage this type, you would need to take insulin every day.
Type 2 diabetes
Your body makes poor-quality insulin, or it doesn't use insulin well. About 90%4 of all diabetes cases fall under this type. You can help treat type 2 diabetes with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. However, you would need to take insulin or oral drugs to help control your blood glucose levels over time.
Gestational diabetes (GDM)
Your body develops high levels of glucose during pregnancy. It usually passes after the delivery. Sometimes, type 2 diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Additionally, it's most likely that you and your child can have type 2 diabetes later in life.
Is Diabetes Hereditary?
Diabetes is a complex disease that you can pass down your family tree. You have a higher risk of developing a particular type of diabetes if you have a history of it in your family. However, there's always a chance that you may not inherit the condition. If your family has a history of diabetes, you can minimize the risk of developing the disease by getting an early diagnosis and changing your lifestyle.
Genetics can play a role in getting diabetes, but it will still depend on the type. Here are the main types of diabetes and how family history affects each one:
Can you inherit type 1 diabetes?
Possibly. If your family members have a type 1 diabetes history, you are inclined to develop it. However, not all type 1 diabetes patients have a family history with the condition, which makes the inheritance pattern of the disease unclear.
According to the Genetics Home Reference5, a person may have genetic features that make type 1 diabetes more likely to develop. These features are changes in protein genetics that play a key role in your immune system, making you more vulnerable to type 1 diabetes. Certain factors can trigger this development.
Possible risk factors6 that may trigger type 1 diabetes:
Non-Breastfeeding Diet – Not being breastfed as a baby ups the risk of developing type 1 diabetes later in life.
Cold Weather – People in cooler climates tend to develop type 1 diabetes.
Viruses – Some viruses can trigger7 type 1 diabetes if you are susceptible to the condition. These viruses include rotavirus, measles, Coxsackie B, and mumps.
Can you inherit type 2 diabetes?
Not likely. Most people with type 2 diabetes often have close family members with the same condition. However, lifestyle factors have the most significant impact8 on developing type 2 diabetes. It's hard to tell if genetic factors could be why you have the condition. It may also be because you share the same lifestyle with a family member who has type 2 diabetes.
Risk factors9 of developing type 2 diabetes:
- Age 45 years or older
- History of cardiovascular disease
- High body mass index (BMI) / Obesity
- History of gestational diabetes
- Limited physical activity due to sedentary lifestyle
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
If you have two or more of these risk factors, it's very much likely that you can develop type 2 diabetes.
Can you inherit gestational diabetes (GDM)?
Possibly. There is no clear inheritance pattern with GDM. However, women with GDM often have at least one close family member who has had gestational diabetes10 or has type 2 diabetes. Additionally, babies of women who have GDM are more likely to have dangerously low blood sugar, which increases their risk of developing obesity, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes later in life.
Risk factors11 of GDM:
- History of diabetes with an immediate family member
- Overweight and obesity
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Lack of physical activity
- Previous history of gestational diabetes or prediabetes
- Previously delivered a baby that weighs more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms)
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes12 is having high blood sugar levels, but not high enough for a doctor to diagnose you with diabetes. Prediabetes can escalate to type 2 diabetes, stroke, or heart disease if you don't manage it. With the proper treatment and lifestyle changes, you can reverse prediabetes.
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of prediabetes13 is the same as type 2 diabetes, which is insulin resistance. Your body is not responding properly to the insulin your pancreas produces, making it harder for glucose to enter your cells.
Your chances of developing prediabetes are high if you're over 45 years old and have a BMI higher than 25. Another common risk factor13 is having more fat around your waist than your hips. If you're male, you're more at risk if your waistline is more than 40 inches; for females, it’s 35 inches or more.
Ways to Treat Prediabetes
1. Eat a balanced diet.
Eating processed foods with non-nutritious sugars, added fats, and calories increases your risk for prediabetes. Change your diet into something "cleaner" by including low-calorie and low-fat foods like lean meats, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits with complex carbs14 (oranges, grapes, etc.).
2. Exercise regularly.
Exercise can lower your blood sugar15 and increase your insulin sensitivity. Ideally, you should engage in moderate physical activities for 30 to 60 minutes, at least five days a week. You can play sports, walk, do aerobics, bike, or swim.
3. Lose weight.
Switching to a healthy diet and regularly exercising can lead you to lose weight. Losing around 5–7% of your body weight16 can reverse prediabetes by 58%. If you weigh about 200 pounds, you need to shed off approximately 10–14 pounds to improve your blood sugar levels.
4. Stop smoking.
Smoking has many negative health effects, such as having a high risk of lung cancer and heart disease. It also increases your risk for insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Consider switching to smoking alternatives like nicotine gum or nicotine patches.
5. Get good-quality sleep.
When you don't have enough sleep, you can increase your insulin resistance17 and blood sugar levels. So, make sure you sleep well to avoid further prediabetic complications. You can do this by avoiding caffeine and nicotine before bed, keeping a regular sleep schedule, and having your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark.
“I’m already diabetic. Can I still reverse it?”
Yes. If you have type 2 diabetes, you have the chance to reverse the condition by modifying your lifestyle with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight loss. According to studies18, you can reverse diabetes for 2–5 years. However, reversing diabetes doesn't mean curing it.
Diabetes is an ongoing condition wherein your blood sugar levels are healthy, and you won't need medication anymore. But if you fall back into unhealthy habits, there's a chance that the disease can come back. With this, it's best to consult with your doctor so that you can find an ideal treatment and management option for your condition.
While type 2 diabetes is reversible, there are types of diabetes that are irreversible18. These are type 1 diabetes, pancreatic diabetes, and genetic diabetes.
What to Do When You’re Living with Someone Who Has Diabetes
Diabetes may be a common condition, but it doesn't make anyone who's going through it feel less alone. Your family members or friends need the right kind of comfort and assistance to help them cope with their condition. Here are some ways on how you can offer your support:
1. Help, but don't nag.
Know the difference between offering your support and nagging. Sometimes, helpful reminders can come off as orders which can make your friend or family member feel like they are to blame for their condition. You can offer useful recommendations and suggestions, but do not lecture.
2. Offer to be a diabetes buddy.
Sticking to a certain diet and exercise regimen can isolate a person with diabetes, as they can feel like they're missing out on the fun. To avoid this, you can offer to join them in making their healthy lifestyle choices, whether that's eating the same nutritious meal or going for a jog together.
3. Be mindful of their low blood sugar symptoms.
If your loved one has type 2 diabetes, there can be moments when they experience a drop in their blood sugar. Before this happens, consult with them about how you can help. A decrease in blood sugar can cause weakness and cloudy thinking, so you must be mindful of the symptoms19 and know what to do in advance.
4. Know when to step back.
You mustn't overstep your role as a support system with your diabetic friend or family member. They are the ones who are responsible for managing their condition, so it's best not to police their meals or second-guess their health plan.
5. Learn how diabetes works.
To offer your best support, it would greatly help if you're informed about their condition. Learn to differentiate diabetes facts from myths. When you understand how the disease works, you can better help your friend or family cope with diabetes.
Stay Educated on Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious condition that most people take for granted because of how common it is. When you leave diabetes untreated, it can develop into worse health complications like kidney, heart, and nerve damage.
Different types of diabetes have their characteristics, whether they are hereditary or reversible. Understanding the specific diabetes type of your loved ones can open doors to how you can help them better. However, it would be best if you put their needs over your own when offering your support.
You can give them suggestions if there's anything that you think can help them, such as where they can buy their medication online so that they no longer have to leave their house. Mediclick is an e-pharmacy that offers convenient and fast medicine delivery services.