World Diabetes Day is observed on 14 November. How can you ensure you stay healthy with diabetes?
Most cases of diabetes can be prevented and managed with proper self-care, healthy eating and exercise, and yet diabetes is the second most common cause of death in South Africa. In overcoming diabetes, one must understand what it is and how it comes about in order to make positive changes to prevent it.
What Is Diabetes And How Is It Caused?
Also known as diabetes mellitus, diabetes is a metabolic disorder that results in a person having an unusually high level of glucose in the blood. This is also known as blood sugar.
This can be due to various reasons, either:
- The pancreas does not produce any insulin (a hormone that manages blood sugar levels)
- The pancreas does not produce enough insulin
- The body’s cells do not respond properly to the insulin
This means that people with diabetes cannot maintain control over their blood glucose, which results in hyperglycaemia (excessively high blood glucose levels).
There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes, where the body stops producing insulin
- Type 2 diabetes, a gradual onset where the body is unable to use insulin properly
- Gestational diabetes, onset during pregnancy due to genetics, lifestyle, or hormonal changes
Managing Blood Glucose Levels
Proper nutrition is essential to control your blood sugar (glucose). If your blood sugar is low (hypoglycaemia) you may experience extreme fatigue, mood changes and blurred vision. If your blood sugar is high (hyperglycaemia) you may experience an increased need to urinate, extreme thirst and you may lose weight. The triggers for hypoglycaemia are related to eating infrequently, eating small portions at mealtimes or overexertion. Hyperglycaemia could be a result of stress, illness, lack of physical activity or improper food balance at mealtimes.
Healthy Diet Tips And Guidelines
- Consult a dietician to get a proper meal plan for a balanced, healthy diet to help stabilise your blood sugar
- Plan your days so that you are able to eat at around the same time every day
- Don’t skip meals or snacks. This will help to keep your blood sugar stable. A good rule of thumb is three meals and three snacks. Snacks can be enjoyed mid-morning, mid-afternoon and before bed
- Eat loads of fruit, vegetables, lean meats, wholegrains and some healthy fats
- Both meals and snacks should combine a protein with a complex carbohydrate
- For proteins choose lean meat cuts, poultry, fish, beans, cheese, eggs or nuts
- For carbs choose potatoes, fruit, dairy or wholegrain bread, pasta or rice
- Follow the plate rule – ¼ plate protein, ¼ plate carb and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables. Fruit and dairy can be enjoyed as part of your meal or as snacks
- If you enjoy cereal for breakfast, look for sugar-free products or opt for cooked oats with added nuts and seeds
- Keep snacks handy so you can eat something if your blood sugar drops. Good choices include a glass of fruit juice, milk or a banana. You can also keep a pack of gummy sweet or jelly beans in your bag for a pick-me-up
- Avoid alcohol, illicit drugs and any medication you have not cleared with your doctor
- Get regular exercise and monitor blood sugar levels before and after exercise