Preventing and Predicting Diseases. Personalized and Participatory Medicine.
Diabetes is a leading cause of death worldwide and strongly related to lifestyle

Lifestyle Diseases: Diabetes Key Facts

  • Diabetes is dysfunction in blood glucose control. Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
  • 347 million people worldwide have diabetes* (1).
  • In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of diabetes / high fasting blood sugar (2).
  • More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (3).
  • WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030 (4).
  • Healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.
  • Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world (5), and is largely the result of lifestyle factors such as excess body weight and physical inactivity.
  • Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normality and diabetes largely the result of lifestyle factors.
Consequences of Diabetes

Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease (primarily heart disease and stroke) (6).
Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers, infection and eventual need for limb amputation.
Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness, and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. One percent of global blindness can be attributed to diabetes (7).
Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure (4).
The overall risk of dying among people with diabetes is at least double the risk of their peers without diabetes (8).

What Causes Diabetes?

Lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, people should:

– Achieve and maintain healthy body weight;
– Be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days. More activity is required for weight control;
– Eat a healthy diet of between three and five servings of fruit and vegetables a day and reduce sugar and saturated fats intake;
– Avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Treatment of diabetes involves lifestyle medicine to lower blood glucose and the levels of other known risk factors that damage blood vessels. Tobacco use cessation is also important to avoid complications.

ESLM Initiatives:

provides scientific guidelines for diabetes prevention with lifestyle medicine;
builds awareness on the global epidemic of diabetes; including partnership with other medical organizations;
support the WHO Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health complements to promote healthy diet and regular physical activity, thereby reducing the growing global problem of overweight and obesity.

* Definition of diabetes used for the estimates: fasting glucose >= 7.0 mmol/L or on medication.

At the intersection of clinical medicine and public health

The European Society of Preventive Medicine (ESPREVMED) is dedicated to preventing diseases, predicting risk and promoting health and well-being.

ESPREVMED operates at the intersection of clinical medicine and public health.

References and continued reading
  • Danaei G, Finucane MM, Lu Y, Singh GM, Cowan MJ, Paciorek CJ et al. National, regional, and global trends in fasting plasma glucose and diabetes prevalence since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 370 country-years and 2.7 million participants. Lancet, 2011, 378(9785):31–40.
  • Global health risks. Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2009.
  • Mathers CD, Loncar D. Projections of global mortality and burden of disease from 2002 to 2030. PLoS Med, 2006, 3(11):e442.
  • Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2011.
  • Definition, diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus and its complications. Part 1: Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1999 (WHO/NCD/NCS/99.2).