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HEALTH TOPICS A TO Z
WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or alternatively, when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) and Impaired Fasting Glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normality and diabetes. People with IGT or IFG are at high risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes, although this is not inevitable.
WHAT ARE COMMON CONSEQUENCES OF DIABETES?
Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC BURDEN OF DIABETES?
Diabetes and its complications impose significant economic consequences on individuals, families, health systems and countries.
WHO estimates that over the next 10 years (2006-2015), China will lose $ 558 billion in foregone national income due to heart disease, stroke and diabetes alone.
HOW CAN THE BURDEN OF DIABETES BE REDUCED?
Without urgent action, diabetes-related deaths will increase by more than 50% in the next 10 years.
To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, people should:
Early diagnosis can be accomplished through relatively inexpensive blood testing.
Treatment of diabetes involves lowering blood glucose and the levels of other known risk factors that damage to blood vessels. Tobacco cessation is also important to avoid complications.
Interventions that are both cost saving and feasible in developing countries include:
Other cost saving interventions include:
These measures should be supported by a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use.
WHO ACTIVITIES TO PREVENT AND CONTROL DIABETES
WHO aims to stimulate and support the adoption of effective measures for the surveillance, prevention and control of diabetes and its complications, particularly in low and middle-income countries. To this end, WHO:
The WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health complements WHO's diabetes work by focusing on population-wide approaches to promote healthy diet and regular physical activity, thereby reducing the growing global problem of overweight and obesity. The Strategy calls upon all stakeholders to take action at the global, regional and local levels and aims to lead to a significant reduction in the prevalence of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
WHO's work on diabetes is integrated into the overall WHO chronic disease prevention and control framework of the Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion. The strategic objectives of the Department are to raise awareness about the global epidemic of chronic diseases; create healthy environments, especially for poor and disadvantaged populations; slow and reverse trends in common chronic disease risk factors such as unhealthy diet and physical inactivity; and prevent premature deaths and avoidable disability due to major chronic diseases.
1 This would underestimate the true burden from diabetes.Although people may live for years with diabetes, their underlying cause of death is usually recorded as heart disease or kidney failure. An alternative estimate, taking into account deaths in which diabetes was a contributory condition, suggests that approximately 2.9 million deaths per year are attributable to diabetes.
Sources: US Department of Health; The World Health Organization