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CHRONIC CARE

diabetic, me? It might be the fifth most common medical condition diagnosed in Singapore but diabetes still remains a mystery to many. Here are the five biggest misconceptions people have about the disease. By NIRMALA SIVANATHAN

A

ccording  to  the  Diabetic  Society  of  Singapore,  11  per  cent   of  Singaporean  adults  today  have  diabetes  —  a  figure  that   the  Ministry  of  Health  expects  to  rise  as  our  population   ages.  The  disease  is  a  primary  cause  of  premature  death   and  ill  health.  It  is  linked  with  the  increased  risk  of  heart  disease,   stroke  and  life-­‐threatening  infections.  It  is  even  recognised  as  one  of   the  top  10  causes  of  death  in  Singapore.  And  yet,  for  all  the  facts   surrounding  the  disease,  many  Singaporeans  still  think  they  are   “safe”  from  getting  diabetes.  

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WELLNESS FOR ALL


Myth “I EXERCISE A LOT SO

#1

I AM NOT AT RISK OF GETTING DIABETES”

It  is  still  possible  for   someone  who  exercises   regularly  to  get  diabetes  as   there  are  other  risk  factors   for  getting  the  disease   besides  a  sedentary  lifestyle,     says  Director  of  the  Health   Promotion  Board  (HPB’s)   Healthy  Ageing  Division,  Dr   Shyamala  Thilagaratnam. These  risk  factors   include  your  age,  conditions   such  as  high  blood   pressure,  and  whether   you  have  first-­‐degree   relatives  with   diabetes.  A  first-­‐ degree  relative  can  be   your  parent,  sibling   or  child.  

But  this  doesn’t  mean   that  you  should  view  your   prospects  of  getting  diabetes   as  inevitable  and  give  up  on   exercise.  As  Dr  Shyamala  is   quick  to  add,  “While  there  is   nothing  you  can  do  about   your  age  or  relatives  with   diabetes,  you  can  help   reduce  your  risk  of  diabetes   by  being  physically  active   and  maintaining  a   healthy  weight.”

WHAT EXACTLY IS DIABETES? Simply put, it is a medical condition characterised by higher than normal blood glucose (sugar) levels. This is caused when the body is unable to use the glucose in the blood for energy because of insufficient or ineffective insulin. Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, constant hunger, constant tiredness, weight loss despite eating well, and excessive urination. A person with diabetes might also find that his or her cuts or wounds do not heal as well as they used to.

Myth

#2

“I don’t eat sweet things, so I won’t get diabetes”

PHOTOS: Getty Images,Corbis Images

You  rarely  indulge  in   dessert,  you  like  your  kopi   black  and  bitter,  and  you   think  sweets  are  for   children,  so  you  think  you’ll   never  get  diabetes.  Well,  you   shouldn’t  be  so  sure.  “There   is  no  direct  evidence  to  show   that  the  consumption  of   sugar  causes  diabetes,”   Dr  Shyamala  says.   This  is  because  the  sugar   in  your  bloodstream  is  not   the  same  as  the  refined   white  sugar  you  consume.   In  fact,  pretty  much   everything  you  eat  —   from  white  rice  to  fruit   juice,  corn  flakes  and   cream  crackers  —  is  

converted  into  glucose  (or   sugar)  by  your  body.  Even   alcoholic  beverages  such  as   beer,  while  not  sweet  in  the   traditional  sense,  are  full   of  sugar. What  links  diet  and   diabetes,  however,  is  obesity.   When  you  consume  too   much  food  —  especially  food   high  in  sugar  or  refined   carbohydrates  —  you  are   taking  in  calories  your  body   doesn’t  need,  which  will  be   converted  into  fat. “Combined  with  a   sedentary  lifestyle,  this  extra   weight  can  increase  your   risk  of  getting  diabetes,”  says   Dr  Shyamala.

Jul-Sep 19


CHRONIC CARE

Myth

#3

“DIABETES IS AN OLD PERSON’S DISEASE”

Well,  this  really  depends  on  what   you  define  as  “old”  —  however,   people  as  young  as  40  are  at  risk  of   developing  Type  2  diabetes,   according  to  Dr  Shyamala.  And  with   the  average  lifespan  of   Singaporeans  standing  at  79  years   for  men  and  84  for  women,  that’s  a   long  time  to  be  saddled  with  a   condition  such  as  diabetes. What’s  more,  reports  released   by  the  World  Health  Organisation   show  that  increasingly  sedentary   lifestyles  and  increasing  obesity   have  resulted  in  more  children  and   adolescents  developing  Type  2   diabetes.   So  if  you  have  a  family  history  of   diabetes  or  any  of  the  other  risk   factors  for  diabetes,  talk  to  your   family  doctor  about  whether  you   should  start  screening  for  diabetes   at  an  earlier  age.

WITH THE AVERAGE LIFESPAN OF SINGAPOREANS STANDING AT 79 YEARS FOR MEN AND 84 FOR WOMEN, THAT’S A LONG TIME TO BE SADDLED WITH A CONDITION SUCH AS DIABETES.

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WELLNESS FOR ALL


Myth

#4

“Diabetes won’t kill you”

According  to  the  Diabetic  Society  of   Singapore,  diabetes  —  if  not  managed  well   —  can  deteriorate  steadily  and  lead  to  life   threatening  complications  such  as  stroke,   nerve  damage,  kidney  failure,  heart   disease  and  limb  amputation.   Uncontrolled  diabetes  can  also  lead  to   high  blood  glucose  (hyperglycaemia)   and  low  blood  glucose   (hypoglycaemia).  Both,  according   to  the  HPB,  can  cause  a  diabetic   to  become  very  sick  and  can   lead  to  a  coma  if  left   unchecked. In  fact,  the  HPB   recommends  that  you  visit  your   family  doctor  for  a  fasting  blood   glucose  test  if  you  have  any  of  the   risk  factors  for  getting  diabetes.   This  will  help  determine  if  you  have   diabetes  or  are  at  the  pre-­‐diabetes   stage,  and  put  you  on  the  path   towards  taking  preventative   action.  

FAT Myth “ONLY PEOPLE GET

#5

DIABETES”

Being  overweight  is  just   one  of  the  risk  factors   associated  with  Type  2  diabetes.   According  to  the  US  National  Library  of   Medicine,  other  risk  factors  such  as   family  history,  ethnicity  and  age  can   also  play  a  part.  So  don’t  be  fooled  —   it’s  not  just  overweight  people  who   can  get  diabetes.  In  fact,  many   overweight  people  never  develop   diabetes  while  many  diabetics   have  a  normal  weight  or  are   only  slightly  overweight!  

DON’T BE FOOLED — IT’S NOT JUST OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE WHO CAN GET DIABETES.

BREAKING DOWN DIABETES You might have heard that there are several different types of diabetes but did you know who these affect and why? We break down the three major forms of diabetes.

ineffective due to insulin resistance. It occurs more often in people over 40, particularly those who are overweight or physically inactive, but medical professionals have noticed an increasing number of young adults and children with Type 2 diabetes in recent years. The condition can be controlled with proper diet, exercise and oral medication.

PHOTOS: Getty Images,Corbis Images

TYPE 1 DIABETES, also called juvenile onset diabetes mellitus, is usually diagnosed in children or young adults. It is caused when the body attacks its own pancreas and stops it from producing insulin. Patients with Type 1 diabetes need insulin for GESTATIONAL DIABETES MELLITUS is survival, and complications are sudden and diabetes that is first diagnosed during life-threatening. pregnancy. Caused by pregnancy hormones that can block insulin from TYPE 2 DIABETES is the more common form doing its job, it occurs in about 2 to 5 per of diabetes and is also known as adult cent of all pregnancies. It requires onset diabetes mellitus. In this case, specialist obstetric care to reduce the patients can still produce insulin — but the risk of serious complications to the insulin produced is insufficient or unborn baby.

Jul-Sep 21


Diabetic, Me?