Keep tabs on your health
With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, many organisations are trying to educate the public about the disease.
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Diabetes is a condition where the body has difficulty controlling the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The body either does not make enough insulin or the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting 85-90% of people with diabetes. It usually affects older adults, but younger people and children are also developing Type 2 diabetes due to unhealthy eating habits.
Unlike Type 1 diabetes (usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence) and gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born), there are lifestyle factors you can adopt to lower you risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
“If you have diabetes you may find that selecting low glycaemic index foods improves your blood sugar control,” says Naazneen Khan, nutrition, health and wellness manager at Nestlé South Africa. “You also need to take care of your diet if you have high cholesterol or triglyceride levels or high blood pressure.”
Here are Khan’s top tips to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes:
- Downsize your waist to less than 102cm (men) or 88cm (women).
- Exercise for at least two and a half hours per week.
- Eat more vegetables and switch to high fibre, whole grain cereal products.
- Reduce your fat intake and switch to monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3 fats, such as canola and olive oils, sunflower oil.
- Drink at least one and a half to two litres of fluid a day: mineral water and sugarless tea and coffee are good options.
“Nutrition is important for everyone,” says Khan. “Maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active on most days and distributing small meals and snacks throughout the day without skipping meals are good for everyone’s health.”
Symptoms common to all types of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Leg cramps
- Increased hunger
You don’t have to see a doctor to test your blood sugar – chemists also offer this service. Using a device to measure your blood sugar and a tiny amount of blood from your fingertip, you can discover the result in a few seconds. If diabetes mellitus runs in your family, you are suffering from typical symptoms or are overweight, then an annual blood sugar test is recommended.
Tell your health care professional if diabetes runs in your family, and discuss your blood sugar levels with him or her. Treatment can then be started in good time and your health is protected. Remember to consult a dietician for tailormade advice.