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World Diabetes Day targets prevention

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is skyrocketing in countries around the world.  Children and teenagers are now being affected by what was once classified as an adult condition.  Unfortunately, there are more than 366 million people worldwide who currently have diabetes.  Healthy lifestyle factors have been proven to prevent, help manage and even reverse diabetes.   

Lifestyle factors like healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking and maintaining an ideal body weight have been found to be the most efficient ways to combat diabetes.  A 2004 survey estimated that 3.4 million people died as a direct result of uncontrolled blood sugar.  It is projected that this diabetes epidemic could claim up to 7 million lives by 2030 if the correct lifestyle alterations are not implemented now. 

Gearing up for World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated annually on November 14. The WDD campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and its member associations. It engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness. 

Established by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in 1991, WDD was created in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat of diabetes. This campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight. Diabetes Education and Prevention is the World Diabetes Day theme for the period 2009-2013.

Where is it celebrated?

World Diabetes Day is celebrated worldwide by the 200-plus member associations of the International Diabetes Federation (in more than 160 countries and territories) and all Member States of the United Nations. Other organizations, companies, healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes mark their calendars, too.

How is it marked? 

The global diabetes community—including International Diabetes Federation member associations, diabetes organizations, NGOs, health departments, civil society, individuals and various businesses—develops an extensive range of activities, tailored to a variety of groups.

Activities organized each year include, but are not limited to:

•              Radio and television programs
•              Free screenings/events for diabetes and its complications
•              Diabetes workshops and exhibitions
•              Walks/runs/races

Why is it important?

In most developing countries, fewer than half of the people with diabetes are properly diagnosed or treated. Complications and morbidity rates skyrocket if there is not timely diagnosis and treatment of the condition. Type 2 diabetes can remain undetected for many years. The diagnosis is often made from associated complications or, incidentally, through screening techniques.

If the condition is unknown to the patient, it can go undiagnosed by the doctor.

According to studies, undiagnosed diabetes accounted for up to 70-85 percent of those with diabetes in studies from South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana and Tanzania. Diabetes and associated deaths in 2010 demonstrated a 5.5 percent increase over the estimates for the year 2007.

Diabetic costs - a family and society burden

The financial burden created by diabetes will impact families physically, psychologically and financially. In developing countries, many individuals with diabetes bear almost the whole cost of medical care.

Does it cost more to treat diabetes or to prevent it? It is very common for people to wait until the "bad news" and then try to treat it. That is when the burden becomes your family's. 

How can the burden of diabetes be reduced?

The key is prevention.  Simple lifestyle changes have been shown to be effective in preventing, delaying and treating the onset of the most common causes of diabetes.

To prevent diabetes and its complications, families should:

•              Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
•              Be physically active - at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity.
•              Eat a healthy diet. Eliminate sugar and processed food items.
•              Avoid tobacco use.  Smoking increases the risk of death.
•              Reduce and eliminate stress.

Diet & the hormone leptin

Leptin is produced by your fat cells and is delivered to your brain to regulate fat burning, hunger, cravings and the sense of being full.  Leptin sets up the body’s repair mechanism through a cascade of hormones, which are guided by leptin.  When leptin levels are in balance, you can lose weight on just about any dietary modification.  

Leptin resistance happens when there is too much leptin being produced due to poor dietary patterns and/or toxicity.  This will cause the receptor sites on the brain that detect leptin to “burn out.”  When leptin can no longer be “heard” by the brain, leptin resistance develops and is the ultimate metabolic cause of one’s inability to lose weight.  

It is the reason weight loss plateaus after initial success.  This phenomenon also is called weight-loss resistance. Leptin-resistance also causes high blood sugar, insulin problems and increased triglycerides in the blood – all complications of diabetes. 

Hormonal imbalance & diabetes

Leptin tells you when you are hungry and regulates fat burning in the absence of food or sugar. When your system is free of unhealthy toxins and/or poor dietary choices, you can easily sense when to eat and how much.

When you eat sufficient good fats, you can remain full for several hours.  If you eat too many high-starch, high-glycemic, low-fiber carbohydrates, you will be continuously hungry.  Be sure to eat enough fat and as few starchy carbohydrates (corn, potatoes, etc.) to prolong your feeling of fullness.

Snacking myths

Once your hormone levels are normalized, a healthy meal should last you about five hours.  While snacking is traditionally thought to boost your metabolism, it actually alters the normal function of your hormones, which ultimately control your metabolism.  Our bodily mechanisms were designed to deal with periods of starvation. Constant snacking raises triglycerides and insulin levels in the blood, factors that contribute to heart disease and diabetes.

If you must snack, be sure to consume a snack with as much good fat, protein and fiber as possible.  Nuts are a great example of a healthy snack.  Do not snack on starchy carbohydrates.  Regardless of how many or few carbohydrates you eat for a snack, the change in insulin levels will create hunger again within a short period of time.

If your leptin level is normal, nighttime snacks will eventually cause leptin to become deregulated.  Late meals have been found to cause leptin to swing in the wrong direction.

Improving lifestyle factors is the best way to prevent and treat the damaging effects of diabetes.  Take a proactive stance in your health and the health of your family. Ensure that you are fueling your body correctly, engaging in enough physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. 

The choices that you make today heavily impact your health tomorrow.  Let’s start promoting World Diabetes Day now so that we can guarantee healthier future generations.  

Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.

Facebook: Dr Cory Couillard
Twitter: DrCoryCouillard


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