The prevalence of diabetes mellitus has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. According to the statistical data of International Diabetes Federation, in 2015, 1 in 11 adults has diabetes. What is surprising to know is that 1 in 2 adults with diabetes is undiagnosed. It is frightening to know that every 6 seconds 1 person dies from diabetes. So, it becomes necessary for people to have basic knowledge about this dreadful disease and its risk factors, which will help them to prevent or manage it better if they have the disease.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use insulin, produced by the beta cells of the pancreas, because the cells of the body become resistant to its action. As a result, the body is less able to take up glucose from the blood for its use for energy. In the earlier stages of type 2 diabetes, the body responds by producing more insulin than it would normally need to. But over a number of years, the extra demands on the pancreas to produce insulin can lead to a loss of insulin producing cells because they wear out.
There are certain risk factors that are responsible for causing type 2 diabetes:
Age – People over the age of 40 have an increased risk of developing the disease. People of south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean and black African descent have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a much earlier age. However, over recent years younger people from all ethnic groups have been developing the condition.
Genetics – It is one of the main risk factors for the disease. The risk of developing the disease is increased if one has a close relative such as a parent, brother or sister, who has the condition.
Overweight and obesity – One is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if overweight or obese. Central obesity (pot belly) particularly increases the risk. This is because it releases chemicals that can upset the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems.
Ethnicity – People of south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean and black African origin are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Moreover, People of south Asian and African-Caribbean origin also have an increased risk of developing its complications, such as heart disease, at a younger age than the rest of the population.
Pre-diabetes – Pre-diabetes can progress to type 2 diabetes if lifestyle changes, including healthy eating, losing weight and taking regular exercise are not instituted.
Gestational diabetes – Women, who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, also have a greater risk of developing diabetes in later life.
Physical inactivity – There is a direct association of physical inactivity and increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Compared to those who sat for less than six hours a day, people who spent six to 10 hours sitting were 15 percent more likely to develop diabetes, suggesting the risk increases with the number of hours spent sitting down. So, there goes a message that the development of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by reducing sitting time in addition to engaging in regular exercise.
Smoking – Smokers are 30% to 40% more likely to get type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. And if one has diabetes and still smokes, the symptoms may become worse and it will be harder to control blood sugar.
Air pollution – Some epidemiologic studies show some degree of association between traffic-related air pollutants and insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We all are exposed to air pollution. An individual reduction by moving away from highly polluted areas is rarely an option. So, it constitutes an important risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
We can’t ignore the fact that health care costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for those who don’t have it. So, it is an economic burden not only on individuals but also on countries in general. According to International Diabetes Federation, diabetes cost the world economy $673 billion in 2015. That’s about 12 % of total world healthcare expenses.
There are some risk factors, which can be controlled individually viz. overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes and air pollution, whereas other factors can’t be modified. Therefore, timely intervention by means of preventive measures for controlling modifiable risk factors will check the spiraling incidence of type 2 diabetes and, at the same time, will lessen overall economic burden.