Doctors advise people check fasting blood glucose levelsIs Korea entering an era when people need to take measures to prevent becoming diabetic?
The Europe Diabetes Seminar, an international forum of experts on the disease, was held earlier this year in Copenhagen. There, figures showed that globally, the chances of a person becoming diabetic are 5 percent.
In developed countries where there are abundant supplies of food the percentage goes up to 10 percent.
In Korea the odds of becoming diabetic are between 8 and 10 percent.
The most obvious symptoms of diabetes are the urge to drink a lot of water, being frequently hungry and urinating often. Such symptoms may not show until up to 10 years of having the disease. By that time, the illness may have reached a point that is difficult to treat.
Steven Kahn, a professor specializing in diabetes at the University of Washington, said that although it is possible to ward off complications through medications, weight control, and diet, once diagnosed with diabetes it is impossible to reverse it. The exception is diabetes that can occur temporarily during pregnancy.
The normal fasting blood glucose level (tested after a person has fasted at least eight hours) is below 100 milligram per deciliter or mg/dl. If the fasting blood glucose level exceeds 126 mg/dl on two different tests on different days, a diagnosis of diabetes is made. When the fasting blood glucose is above 100 mg/dl and up to 125 mg/dl, the patient has impaired glucose tolerance, and has a high probability of developing diabetes.
Therefore, doctors say it is important to aggressively monitor whether one might have the disease.
Professor Rury Holman, director of diabetes studies at Oxford University, said people who are obese, suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol and women who had diabetes during pregnancy should have regular blood sugar checkups.
Doctors stress that the most important preventative measures are regular exercise and a healthy diet. Paying heed to these two factors reduces the chance of getting diabetes by more than half. However, for many people it is hard to change a lifestyle they have become accustomed to over many years. In such cases, doctors advise taking prescription medications to control blood sugar levels.
In a research study overseen by Bernard Zinman, a medical professor at Canada’s McMaster University, 5,269 people from 21 countries were injected with rosiglitazone, a diabetes prevention drug made by GlaxoSmithKline, over a three-year period. Overall, the blood glucose levels were reduced.
Additionally, Mr. Zinman’s study showed that Asians living in developed countries were more vulnerable to developing diabetes than other races living in the same country. While a white American’s chance of developing diabetes is 8 percent, for second-generation Koreans, Japanese and Chinese, the odds increase to between 18 and 20 percent.
“This is because compared with other races Asians have less muscle and insulin-secreting cells,” said Yoon Geon-ho, a doctor at Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital.
“Especially, Koreans past the age of 30 should take more care to prevent diabetes, including regular exercise.”
by Hwang Se-hee
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