Diabetes is affecting more and more young people and prevention is now. But how do you know if you have diabetes? What are the symptoms? We tell you everything.
Approximately 3.5 million people in France suffer from diabetes, including at least 600,000 who are unaware of their condition. And who are neither obese nor octogenarians: actress Halle Berry, for example, is diabetic.
To find out if you are diabetic, all you have to do is measure your glycemia (the level of sugar in your blood). Above 1.26 g per litre on an empty stomach, diabetes is diagnosed. There are two major types of diabetes (see box opposite).
Type 1 diabetes, and type 2, which can progress to type 1 if left untreated or if dietary recommendations are not followed.
While type 1 is easily identifiable (increased feeling of tiredness, hunger, thirst, discomfort), type 2 is painless and silent and can go unnoticed for years. This explains the colossal figure of 600,000 diabetics who ignore each other.
The rare signs that can attract attention are: excessive and chronic fatigue, a tendency to drink and urinate a lot, the dry mouth typical of recurrent infections that are difficult to heal, such as fungus and boils.
Very often, the diagnosis is made after another examination or during a visit to the occupational medicine.
Diabetes, who’s concerned?
There’s no need to rush to the first lab that comes along. People with diabetes in the family are considered to be at risk. With one of the two parents affected, the risk increases by 30%, and it rises to 90% if both are affected.
This is why, in children of diabetics, systematic screening is recommended in adulthood. The focus is on women who have had gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Although it disappears after delivery in 97% of cases, it puts the mother at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
Obesity, a diet too rich in fast sugars (sodas, cakes, etc.) and lack of physical exercise complete the risk factors.
What can we do about diabetes?
Before you have type 2 diabetes, you are “insulin resistant” or pre-diabetic. At this stage, nothing is lost. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, i.e. by shedding excess weight, forgetting saturated fats and starting to eat fibre, and by playing sports seriously, you can reduce your risk of diabetes.
And it works! A survey conducted by the National Institute of Health has shown that 30 minutes of physical exercise (walking, for example) is enough to reduce the risk of developing the disease by 58%.
Testing blood sugar levels faster and better is a big step forward. But diabetes will go down when you eat lighter and move your body. So, put away your cake packet and get on your bike.
Both types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as insulin-dependent diabetes, affects about 180,000 people. As a result of an autoimmune (the body attacks itself) or viral (unproven hypothesis) disease, the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
The disease often starts in childhood or adolescence, but now affects adults. It is not known why this disease occurs, so it is almost impossible to prevent it. But it is possible to live a normal life with a strict lifestyle and medical treatment.
Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as fatty diabetes, is the most widespread form (2.2 million patients in France).
Overweight and a sedentary lifestyle are blamed for the body’s inability to secrete enough insulin and use it properly. Diagnosed most often in adults, it is increasingly common in adolescents. Heredity plays an important role.