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Diabetes & Blood Pressure Check-up


Diabetes is a chronic disease characterised by the body’s impaired ability to regulate blood sugar levels. This can occur either when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, or when the body is unable to use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that removes sugar from the blood and stores it in the cells to be used for energy. As a result, blood sugar levels are elevated.

What are the types of diabetes?

There are a few classifications of diabetes, namely:

  • Prediabetes

This refers to a condition where your blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be classified under type 2 diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes

This refers to a condition where the body experiences a deficit in insulin production and relies on daily administration of insulin. The cause and prevention methods remain unknown.

  • Type 2 diabetes

This refers to a condition where the body is unable to effectively use insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and largely the result of being overweight and inactive.

  • Gestational diabetes

This refers to a condition where blood sugar levels are above normal but below the diagnostic of diabetes. This condition occurs during pregnancy and can cause complications during the pregnancy and at delivery. These women and their children are also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Causes of diabetes

Diabetes can be caused by genetic or lifestyle factors, or a combination of both.

  • Prediabetes

The exact cause is not known, but it is believed that family history and genetic factors play an important role. The good news is that prediabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes.

  • Type 1 diabetes

Similarly, the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known. What is known is that with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is possible that a virus triggers this reaction by the immune system.

  • Type 2 diabetes

On the other hand, there are clear causes for type 2 diabetes. Firstly, type 2 diabetes runs in the family so a family history of this condition puts you at risk of developing it as well. Lifestyle factors, such as inactivity and unhealthy eating habits, equally increases your risk. Importantly, carrying extra weight, especially in your midsection, makes your body more resistant to the effects of insulin on your blood sugar.

  • Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy which, in turn, makes the placenta-produced hormones less sensitive to the effects of insulin. It is more likely for people who are overweight when they get pregnant or who gain too much during pregnancy to develop gestational diabetes.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Some symptoms are present across types 1 and 2 diabetes. These include;

  • Increased hunger and thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Tiredness

Despite presenting the same signs, symptoms for type 2 diabetes are often less marked. Resultantly, type 2 diabetes can go undiagnosed for several years from its onset, after complications have already developed.

Symptoms unique to type 1 diabetes include unintended weight loss and erratic mood changes, while that of type 2 diabetes include sores that are slow to heal and recurring infections.

Diabetes in men and women can also present differently. For example, men may experience poor muscle strength, decreased sex drive, and erectile dysfunction. Women, on the other hand, may experience dryness in the vaginal, urinary tract or yeast infections, and dry and itchy skin.

Gestational diabetes is a unique case on its own because it does not typically present any symptoms. The condition is usually discovered during a routine blood sugar test or oral glucose tolerance test, which is usually carried out between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.

What is the acceptable range of blood pressure?

A healthy blood pressure reading is lower than 120/80mmHg, and anywhere between 90/60mmHg to 120/80mmHg. The first number indicates your systolic pressure and the second number indicates you diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure refers to the blood pressure in the blood vessels when the heart contracts, pushing blood out, while diastolic pressure refers to the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart relaxes in between contractions.

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Most people with diabetes should try to maintain their blood pressure at no more than 130/80mmHg.

High blood pressure usually does not present with any signs. This is why it is important that you check your own pressure regularly. You can do this from the comforts of your home with a blood pressure measure machine, purchased from any pharmacy or hospital.

How is diabetes screening carried out in Singapore?

Prediabetes and diabetes can be diagnosed through blood tests:

  • The AC1 test provides a graphical illustration of your blood sugar levels over the last 3 months
  • The fasting plasma glucose test measures your blood sugar levels after you have fasted for 8 hours

For gestational diabetes, expectant mothers are routinely tested during their second or third trimester. Your doctor would first test your blood sugar levels between the 24th and 28th week of trimester, via a glucose challenge test first. If you pass the glucose challenge test, you will not require a glucose tolerance test.

A glucose challenge test checks your blood sugar levels one hour after you have had a sugary liquid. If your levels are high, you will undergo a glucose tolerance test that tests your blood sugar levels at three intervals: first when you have fasted overnight, then an hour after you have had a sugary liquid, and then again after 2 hours. You will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes if all three readings indicate so.


Diabetes can be managed with medication:

  • Type 1 diabetes: Insulin Is the main treatment option for type 1 diabetes. It provides the body with the hormones that it is unable to produce.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes can help manage type 2 diabetes. If diet and exercise cannot lower your blood sugar levels, you may have to rely on medication. Medication can also help to control high blood pressure.
  • Gestational diabetes. Similarly, dietary changes and exercise can help to bring down your blood sugar levels. Otherwise, you may require insulin.

How can I manage diabetes and high blood pressure? 

Exercise is an important factor in managing all types of diabetes. Maintaining an active lifestyle can help your body react to insulin more effectively, which would help to lower blood sugar levels. Regular workouts also help you with weight management which, in turn, helps you get better sleep and puts you in a better mood while reducing your risk for diabetes-related complications. 

For types 1 and 2 diabetes, the goal is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. This includes cardio-based workouts like walking, cycling, and swimming. For patients with gestational diabetes, start slowly and slowly increase your activity level over time to avoid injuries or overexerting yourself.

Diabetic patients with high blood pressure may require medication to manage the condition. These medications will also prevent or slow kidney diseases.

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