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Is it possible to prevent diabetes?

Diabetes: MedlinePlus in Spanish

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. Over time it leads to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. There are mainly two types of diabetes: type 1, which is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin – a hormone that is responsible for regulating the amount of sugar in the blood – on its own; and type 2 diabetes, which is the most common and occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or does not produce enough and which in the last thirty years has increased drastically in all countries.

Approximately 62 million people throughout America have type 2 diabetes, a number that has tripled since 1980 and is estimated to reach 109 million by 2040. Nearly 250,000 deaths are also attributed to it in America alone each year. For all this, there is a globally agreed goal to stop the increase in diabetes and obesity, one of the main risk factors for this disease, by 2025.

Why does type 2 diabetes occur?

As we explained previously, type 2 diabetes is the most common pathological form of diabetes worldwide, especially in developed countries, along with overweight and obesity. It is a disease that develops when the blood sugar level is too high, since insulin is no longer able to perform its function, based on providing mobility for sugar to reach the cells.

“Specifically, adipocytes, hepatocytes and muscle cells do not respond correctly to said insulin, which is known as insulin resistance, due to the lipotoxicity of visceral fat in overweight people,” says Dr. Amalia Paniagua, specialist from the Endocrinology Service of the Fundación Jiménez Díaz University Hospital in Madrid, Spain.

Thus, this vascular disease affects the blood supply of small and medium-sized vessels throughout the body. “Consequently, when blood glucose is not adequately corrected, it can affect the retina, kidney, heart, brain, and nerves and arteries in the legs and arms,” adds the expert.

A disease that can be prevented

Type 2 diabetes is today considered the great pandemic of our century, and doctors and specialists do not stop repeating its importance and that we are not sufficiently aware of all its implications. Although type 1 diabetes is a disease that cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes can delay its onset and even prevent it from occurring by modifying our lifestyle and correcting certain habits.

“It is important to understand that the longer a person suffers from diabetes, the longer the time will be to contract any of the serious health problems that are associated with it, such as heart problems or even cerebrovascular accidents” (such as embolisms or strokes), he emphasizes. the endocrinologist.

The specialist highlights how weight loss is the best strategy to avoid the development of type 2 diabetes, placing emphasis on reducing visceral fat and increasing physical activity. “Before people develop this pathology, they generally have prediabetes, which is a reversible condition, whose treatment allows preventing the disease through less weight loss than is necessary once diabetes has been established. type 2”.

To achieve this, the expert points out some measures that can be applied:

  • Follow an eating plan based on calorie reduction, trying to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates from the diet.
  • Eating a good source of fiber at each meal can help prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Try to avoid sugary drinks as much as possible.
  • Perform physical activity almost daily. It is advisable to have at least half an hour of physical activity five days a week.
  • Give up smoking. There is research linking tobacco and exposure to secondhand smoke or environmental smoke with type 2 diabetes.
  • The use of certain drugs or even some interventional measures such as metabolic surgery.

Although these tips are general, experts emphasize the need for personalized attention and supervision from a medical specialist who can help and guide the person based on their situation, on what are the best sports or activities they can practice. “You should always start slowly and move forward progressively,” suggests Dr. Amalia Paniagua.

Drugs in evolution

Thanks to the research that has been carried out in recent years, several essential therapeutic tools are currently available to treat the disease, such as GLP1 analogues, glucosuric drugs and metformin. “These new drugs greatly improve the prognosis of the pathology. In addition, its benefits on diabetes complications have been proven and its safety, broad indications and management of its adverse effects have been reviewed to promote tolerance and help therapeutic compliance,” adds the endocrinologist.


"Because prevention is better than cure"

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