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Diabetes mellitus (DM), derived from the Greek word “diabetes” meaning “siphon” and the Latin word “mellitus” meaning “sweet”, is a group of metabolic disorders marked by persistently high blood sugar levels due to issues with insulin secretion, action, or both. It poses a significant global health challenge, with an estimated 424.9 million adults affected and a projected increase to 628.6 million individuals. Diabetes is common in Malaysia, affecting one in every five adults and accounting for 3.9 million diagnosed cases among those aged 18 and above. The prevalence increased from 7.2% in 2011 to 9.4% in 2019, according to the National Health Morbidity Survey (NHMS). 

DM encompasses various categories, including type 1, type 2, maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY), gestational diabetes, neonatal diabetes, and secondary causes attributed to endocrine disorders or steroid usage. The primary subtypes are Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), distinguished by impaired insulin secretion and/or action. This article focused on Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Now, let’s explore these topics further!


Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

  • Type 1 diabetes mainly affects children and adolescents. In 2017, approximately 1,106,500 children were diagnosed with T1DM. Type 1 diabetes symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, constant hunger, rapid weight loss, bed-wetting, and blurred vision. This type of diabetes is defined by the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas, which is usually caused by an autoimmune process. As a result, insulin production is severely reduced or absent.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

  • Type 2 diabetes is most common in adults, but it is also being diagnosed in children and adolescents due to rising rates of obesity, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. In 2019, an estimated 372 million adults were at risk of developing T2DM. This type of diabetes develops more gradually, with an imbalance between insulin levels and insulin sensitivity, resulting in decreased insulin function. Insulin resistance, which is frequently linked to obesity and ageing, is a major factor in the development of T2DM. T2DM, as opposed to T1DM, is caused by a complex interaction of genetic and lifestyle factors. According to research, there is a strong genetic predisposition to T2DM, with the majority of patients having at least one parent who has the condition.


Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

The risk factors for T1DM are less well-defined than T2DM. Some known risk factors include:

  • Family history of T1DM, such as a parent, brother, or sister

  • Occur at any age, it usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

A variety of lifestyle and health-related factors contribute to T2DM risk. These include:

  • Being overweight or obese, specifically having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher.

  • Central or android obesity is characterised by increased abdominal or vertical fat and increases the risk. 

  • Other metabolic syndrome-related factors, such as triglyceride levels, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, hypertension, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

  • Unhealthy dietary habits, such as consuming excessive processed red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and alcohol, while lacking in fruits, vegetables, high-fibre, and whole grain foods

  • A sedentary lifestyle with low physical activity

  • Smoking or using tobacco

  • Ageing

  • Family history particularly if first-degree relatives have the condition or if it occurred at a young age

  • Socioeconomic factors including low income, occupation, and education

  • Stress, depression, and anxiety


Here are some simple steps for staying healthy:

  1. Maintain an appropriate body weight

  2. Stay active by engaging in moderate-intensity exercise for 150-300 minutes per week, vigorous-intensity exercise for 75-150 minutes per week, or a combination of the two

  3. Consume a nutritious diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains.

  4. Avoid food high in sugar and saturated fat.

  5. Quit smoking.

  6. Get regular screening tests to monitor your blood sugar levels. 

  7. Maintain a positive attitude and manage stress to improve your mental health.

To sum up, understanding the types, risks, and lifestyle strategies for managing diabetes is critical. T1DM primarily affects children, whereas T2DM is common in adults but is becoming more prevalent in younger individuals due to lifestyle factors. Recognising risk factors enables individuals to make healthier decisions. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, eating well, quitting smoking, and regularly checking blood sugar levels are key steps in diabetes prevention and management. Individuals can reduce the impact of diabetes and live healthier lives by taking proactive steps and prioritising their health. 


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