World Health Day 2016: Beat diabetes

Today is World Health Day, a global health awareness day held annually on April 7.

Each year attention is drawn to a different global health issue with this year being diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. 

There are three main types of diabetes, plus a stage before diabetes called pre-diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes

This is where the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Those affected require daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.

Type 2 diabetes 

This results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90 per cent of people with diabetes around the world, and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy when your body cannot cope with the extra demand for insulin production resulting in high blood glucose levels. Effective management of gestational diabetes (monitoring blood glucose levels, adopting a healthy eating plan and performing regular physical activity) will reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and the birth of your baby. After the baby is born, gestational diabetes usually disappears.

Pre-diabetes

This is a condition where your blood sugar elevates to a level higher than the normal range for most people but is still low enough not to be considered diabetes. People who have pre-diabetes are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life if they do not monitor their condition carefully.

Diabetes: The facts

  • The International Diabetes Federation estimates that in 2015, 415 million adults live with diabetes worldwide

  • This number likely to more than double in the next 20 years

  • In 2012 an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes

Diabetes & the Heart Research Institute

Our researchers were part of the team who were the first in the world to uncover a link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a discovery that has the potential to save millions of lives. More than 65 per cent of diabetics die from heart and vascular disease.

This includes heart attack, peripheral artery disease and stroke. Diabetics are also up to six times more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis than people without diabetes.

In breakthrough research, a team of cardiologists and researchers from The Heart Research Institute and Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital uncovered a direct mechanism by which the high sugar levels in diabetes causes vascular damage. 

According to Professor Martin Ng, Group Leader for the HRI’s Translational Research & Bioengineering group. 

“Our work is tremendously exciting because it identifies, for the first time, how high glucose can directly contribute to vascular disease in diabetes and it identifies a new target for therapy.”

Find out more about the work of our Translational Research & Bioengineering Group.

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