Diabetes: what role do families play?

Diabetes: what role do families play?

November 16, 2018

Diabetes: what role do families play?

World Diabetes Day 2018 focuses on the role played by families in supporting those affected and preventing diabetes. For example, regular physical activity and a sustainable and healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, are essential to preventing type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 425 million people around the world are currently living with diabetes. This is equivalent to 8.5% of the entire adult population: over the last 30 years, the disorder has almost duplicated (it was 4.7% in 1980), partially due to the aging population and the diffusion of unhealthy lifestyles, but also because diabetes is being diagnosed increasingly early and because improved treatments allow people affected by diabetes to live a normal life. 

Preventing diabetes 

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is a global alliance between more than 200 national associations from over 160 countries, who have joined forces to improve the lives of people affected by diabetes all over the world. In addition to supporting research, the Federation is committed to promoting global awareness to preventing diabetes. World Diabetes Day is one of the events organized by IDF and is celebrated every year on November 14, to coincide with the birthday of Frederick Banting, the man who, in 1922, together with Charles Best, discovered insulin, the hormone (which today is produced thanks to techniques that recombine the bacterial genome) that allows many patients to survive. 

Created in 1991, in response to growing concerns about the increasing number of diabetes cases, World Diabetes Day was officially adopted by the United Nations in 2006 and every year it has a different theme: in 2017, its hundreds of campaigns, screenings, conferences, meetings and other initiatives focused on the relation between women and diabetes, while in 2018-2019 the focus is on families and their role in providing support, specially to young patients. 

Diabetes, as a matter of fact, does not affect just the individual but also partners, children and parents (if the patient is a child), and has an impact on the entire support network. Therefore, it is important to promote the role played by families in managing, taking care, educating and preventing diabetes. 

Additionally, diabetes can pose a serious economic threat to families, especially in countries that cannot count on a universal and public health system. 

Managing diabetes effectively requires daily treatment, regular monitoring, a healthy diet, a regular lifestyle and continuous access to information. In many countries, just the cost of an insulin injection and daily blood sugar level monitoring can cost half of an average family's income. For many, regular access to the drugs required is not an option. 

A sustainable and healthy diet: a valuable tool 

Most of the 425 million people affected by diabetes all over the world have type 2 diabetes, the form caused by insulin resistance in peripheral tissues. This form of diabetes is developed by adults (unlike type 1 diabetes, which affects mainly children) and can be partially prevented through regular physical activity, a balanced and healthy diet, as for example the Mediterranean diet, and the promotion of healthy living environments. Recommendations for the prevention of type 2 diabetes include a diet rich in fibers from vegetables, fruit and whole grains, and low on animal fat (the classic Mediterranean diet); the diet should also include two portions of fish per week, preferably blue fish, rich in omega3 fatty acids.

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