By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
We hear a lot about diabetes in Bermuda. This is because we have an extraordinarily high rate of it in our population: at about 14 per cent we have about double the global average. While we’ve previously discussed how to manage the disease and how to reduce your risk, I thought it was time for a crash course in diabetes, just in time for Diabetes Awareness Month.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition once it develops and can have serious effects on a person’s health and lifestyle. It is defined by the body’s inability to regulate sugar in the blood, known as glucose. We take in glucose in our food, when sugars and carbohydrates are broken down. It is what gives us the energy to get on with our lives, from focusing on work to running around with our kids. Glucose levels in the blood are controlled by a hormone known as insulin which allows the sugar to enter our cells.
But those with diabetes have problems with their insulin which means that the cells don’t get the energy they need and the glucose just builds up in their bloodstream. This causes all kinds of problems including fatigue, extreme thirst, inability to heal properly and blurry vision. There are also a number of serious complications that can arise from diabetes which is why it is so important to regulate the disease with the guidance of a medical professional.
There are two primary forms that diabetes takes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 means that a person is unable to make insulin at all and it is considered more serious and is unavoidable for those who have it – scientists have yet to discover its cause. Approximately ten per cent of those who have diabetes have Type 1 and they must regulate their blood sugar with frequent insulin shots. Typically, Type 1 develops early in life, often in childhood, though there are exceptions.
Type 2 diabetes is much more common, particularly in Bermuda, and is defined by the body’s cells not responding to insulin the way it should and/or not being able to make enough of it. It can often be avoided with a healthy lifestyle, although there are certain risk factors that can determine how likely it is that you will develop it, including: obesity, family history, an inactive lifestyle and certain ethnic factors.
Those with diabetes must be vigilant about their health and at this time of year it is also important to think about the rise of seasonal illness. Those who have diabetes are often considered by medical professionals to be more at risk of sickness and developing complications which is why we recommend the flu shot for diabetes sufferers: it is better to be safe than sorry.
If you want to find out whether you may be at risk for Type 2 diabetes, Diabetes UK has created a useful diabetes risk assessor tool that you may find useful: https://riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/start. It is much more preferable to try to reduce our risk factors for diabetes than it is to manage the disease: prevention is king.
You can find out more about diabetes in Bermuda by checking out the Bermuda Diabetes Association online at their website here: http://www.diabetes.bm/
If you have any questions about diabetes, either in yourself or a loved one, or want to find out whether you might be at risk, please speak to your pharmacist or your doctor.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.