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How much do you know about diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which the body produces insufficient insulin, a hormone that keeps the blood sugar level balanced, or the body does not respond properly to insulin, resulting in a high amount of sugar in the blood.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes (usually inherited and cannot be prevented), Type 2 diabetes (the most common type of diabetes and can be prevented) and gestational diabetes (happens during pregnancy).
Diabetes is a worldwide epidemic, where the number of people with diabetes is huge and growing. About 440,000 Singapore residents who were 18 years and above had diabetes in 2014 and the number is estimated to grow to 1,000,000 in 2050.
Diabetes was the 4th and 8th most common condition of polyclinic attendances and hospitalisation respectively in 2014. Life years lost due to mortality and ill-health related to diabetes was the 4th largest among all diseases in 2010.
The cost burden from diabetes, including medical expenses and productivity loss, was expected to rise from beyond $940 million in 2014 to $1.8 billion in 2050.
The prevalence of diabetes among Singapore residents (Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents) has increased over the decade. This is largely attributed to our ageing population as the risk of diabetes increases with age.
One in nine Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 years were affected by diabetes in 2010. The prevalence of people with diabetes was similar between the genders.
Indians and Malays consistently had higher prevalence of diabetes compared to the Chinese across the years (Table 1). One in three diabetics were unaware that they had diabetes. Among the diabetics who were aware of their disease, one in three had poor control of their condition.
Table 1: Crude prevalence of diabetes (%) among Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 years
18 – 29
30 – 39
40 – 49
50 – 59
60 – 69
Table 2 shows that even after accounting for Singapore’s ageing population, the prevalence of diabetes in Singapore (10.5%) is higher than the world’s average (8.8%). Rising obesity is also a significant contributor to the rise in diabetes prevalence.
Table 2: International comparison on national prevalence of diabetes (%) among the residents aged 20 to 79 years
North America and Caribbean
South and Central America
Middle East and North Africa
South East Asia
Countries and Regions within Asia
The prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) among Singapore residents remained between 12 and 15 percent over the decade (Table 3). The profile of those people with IGT was similar to those with diabetes. One in three people with IGT is estimated to develop diabetes in eight years.
Table 3: Crude prevalence of IGT (%) among Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 years
Although diabetes is not fatal in the short term, undiagnosed diabetes or poorly controlled diabetes can eventually lead to disabilities and diseases, compromising the quality of life of individuals and their caregivers.
The progression to these complications is quickened when diabetes is poorly controlled. Some diseases related to diabetes can also lead to premature death and disability.
Every year in Singapore,
Risk factors of diabetes are:
Common symptoms of diabetes are:
At-risk individuals, such as those with a family history of diabetes or who are overweight (body mass index ≥ 23 kg/m2), should go for screening before 40 years old. Regular screening should be carried out every 3 years for people whose screening results have been found to be normal. Regular health screening for diabetes is recommended once every three years for people who are 40 years or older.
The screening test is free for Pioneer Generation and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) cardholders. Diabetes screening under HPB’s Screen for Life programme is available at GP clinics and polyclinics. You can refer to this clinic locator for the list of CHAS clinics near you.
Since people with IGT have a higher risk of developing diabetes compared to people with normal glucose tolerance, you should be alert once IGT is detected. Studies have shown the cost effectiveness and risk reduction effects of lifestyle modification among people with IGT. Through close monitoring and follow-up, the glucose level of those with IGT can be improved and returned to the normal level.
Early detection, regular monitoring and timely treatment of diabetes can prevent complications and reduce the impact of diabetes on individuals and their caregivers.
To learn more about diabetes in Singapore, check out the "10 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes".
If you are between the ages of 18 and 39, find out your risk by taking the Diabetes Risk Assessment. Take the first step towards beating diabetes.
Both Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) share common risk factors such as obesity, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. It is therefore not surprising that people with Type 2 diabetes have a higher chance of developing high blood pressure.
In addition, uncontrolled diabetes causes narrowing of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) which in turn can lead to high blood pressure.
Having both high blood pressure and diabetes greatly increases your risks of having a heart attack, stroke, diabetic eye disease and kidney disease. So do your best to keep your blood pressure within the normal range to prevent these diseases.
Related: How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Men and Women Differently?
If you have diabetes, ask your doctor to check your blood pressure regularly to make sure it stays below 140 over 80 mmHg. Make small changes to your lifestyle, such as eating healthily and staying active, to keep your blood pressure within the desirable range.
Related: High Blood Pressure: Healthy Eating Guide
Do I check my blood pressure regularly?
Is my weight within a healthy range?
Do I follow a healthy diet that includes wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, and is low in salt, as well as saturated and trans fat?
Am I physically active on a regular basis?
Am I managing stress?
Do I have enough sleep?
Do I limit my alcohol intake?
Have I quit smoking? (for smokers)
Am I taking my medications as prescribed?
Related: Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring
While some people can control their Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure with lifestyle changes, most require medication.
People with diabetes and high blood pressure are often prescribed medications to lower their blood pressure. There are many types of anti-hypertensive medications. Some produce side-effects, so keep track of how you feel and let your doctor know.
This article was last reviewed on
Thursday, November 15, 2018
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