Diabetes 101 for Pinoys

Like most developing countries, the Philippines is facing a growing problem – diabetes. At present, around 3.7 million Filipino adults have diabetes1, and this number continues to grow. Although rarer, there are also Filipino children with diabetes. What exactly is diabetes, and why should we be concerned?


Diabetes is a condition wherein the level of sugar in the blood exceeds normal levels for long periods of time.2 The level of sugar in your blood can be measured through a blood test.

Normally, our bodies keep the level of sugar in the blood within a narrow range. If blood sugar rises (for example, after we eat), the pancreas produces the hormone insulin. This hormone lowers the level of blood sugar. On the other hand, if the level of blood sugar becomes low, the body tries to increase blood sugar through various ways (for example, it triggers hunger to induce us to eat).

However, when a person has diabetes, the body is unable to lower the level of blood sugar to normal levels. Which brings us to the two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.


What is type 1 diabetes?

• With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. This is usually because of disease conditions that lead to the death of the cells that produce insulin.
• This type is more common in children and adolescents.
• The primary treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin injections. This is to replace the lack of insulin in the body.
• People with type 1 diabetes need to receive insulin injections for life. With proper treatment, they can live long, fruitful and active lives.


What is type 2 diabetes?

• With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is able to produce insulin. However, the produced insulin is not effective in lowering the blood sugar to normal levels. This condition is called insulin resistance.
• This type is more common in adults and becomes more common with age.
• There are various reasons why insulin produced by the pancreas becomes less effective in type 2 diabetes. These include excess body weight, especially excess belly fat, lack of exercise, smoking, poor sleep, genetics and aging. All these factors can work together to hinder the effectiveness of insulin and aggravate insulin resistance.
• There are many types of anti-diabetes medications to treat type 2 diabetes. Your doctor will help decide which type is best suited to your condition.


Why should you care?

You may have heard people say, “Walang namamatay sa diabetes – pero marami ang namamatay sa komplikasyon ng diabetes.” There is some truth to this saying. Over the course of years, the high levels of sugar in the blood can destroy many different organs of the body, leading to diabetes complications. These complications include diseases of the nerves and blood vessels, blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.



Click the link to read more about the complications of diabetes.

As the Filipino lifestyle become more “modern”, we tend to eat more unhealthy foods, gain excessive weight, spend hours sitting down instead of walking and exercising, and become deprived of sleep. All these could increase our risk of diabetes. Instead, we should be more proactive in trying to avoid diabetes as well as detecting diabetes early to receive early treatment and prevent diabetes complications.


How will you know if you have diabetes? Diabetes is diagnosed by a blood test, which your doctor will request. Ask your doctor about testing for diabetes, especially if you:3

• Are older than 40 years old
• Live a sedentary lifestyle
• Are overweight
• Have a first-degree relative with diabetes, heart disease or stroke
• Delivered a baby weighing 8 pounds or more
• Have symptoms of diabetes

Click here to know the symptoms of diabetes and what to expect from your doctor’s visit.


Diabetes and Heart Disease


Diabetes is also linked to heart disease. Knowing your risk of heart disease can help you determine the next steps to take in reducing your risk of complications from both diseases so that you can live a healthier lifestyle. To know your risk, we recommend taking our ASCVD Risk Calculator: Framingham Score Test, a test that estimates a patient’s risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease within a 10-year time period of a person who is currently not yet diagnosed with a particular heart disease.





1Jimeno CA, et al. Philippe J Int Med 2015;52:1-8.
2American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 2004 Jan; 27(suppl 1): s5-s10.
3Jimeno CA, et al. J ASEAN Federation Endocrine Soc 2015;26(1):26.