diabetesWorld Diabetes Day is held on 14 November each year. A staggering 50 per cent of sufferers do not know that they are diabetic and the nearly silent disease is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and limb amputation.

Diabetes is responsible for one death every seven seconds and accounts for more than 4.6 million deaths per year. The rate of developing diabetes has increased by 700 per cent in the last five decades and can be largely traced to poor personal habits.

Unknowing victims are commonly diagnosed incidentally through blood or urine tests associated with other active health conditions. A diabetic diagnosis is frequently associated with obesity, insufficient physical activity, smoking and poor diet.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 90 per cent of all cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has also been called non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. The name adult-onset diabetes is rarely used anymore as many children and teenagers are now developing the condition.

Diabetes is a chronic, life-long condition that can lead to blindness, kidney damage, poor circulation and nerve damage. It is the leading cause of blindness and damage to the blood vessels that can increase the risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Good diabetes care generally means keeping one’s blood sugar levels within the normal range. There is no one cure for diabetes, but effective treatment and management strategies do exists. A person with diabetes should be able to lead an active, healthy life and reduce the risk of complications with proper self-care.

Physical activity is also one of the most important aspects in maintaining a healthy body weight and preventing type 2 diabetes. Maintaining one’s body weight improves insulin control, keeps blood sugar in check and reduces harmful cholesterol and blood pressure that is linked to life threatening conditions such as cardiovascular diseases.

Unhealthy diets, especially the excessive consumption of energy, saturated fat, trans fat, salt and sugar could cause at least 40 per cent of all deaths from diabetes and approximately one quarter of all deaths. To prevent or reverse diabetes – reduce sugar intake, eliminate processed food items, reduce portion size and increase consumption of vegetables.

Smoking can promote the development of diabetes by at least 30 per cent. Smoking is one of the leading causes of inflammation, scarring of the arteries and atherosclerosis – leading risk factors for heart disease, stroke and premature death.

The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation and its member associations. It engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness. To prevent diabetes and help support a local campaign, please visit: http://www.idf.org/worlddiabetesday

Dr Cory Couillard is an international health columnist that works in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s goals of disease prevention and global health care education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.