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World Diabetes Day

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases that affects the way in which your body deals with glucose (the sugar found in your blood). Glucose is essential in ensuring your body functions properly and is your main source of energy. If you suffer from diabetes, it means that there is too much glucose in your blood.

What causes diabetes?

Usually your body breaks down the carbohydrates and sugars from your food and converts it into glucose. But before your body can convert this glucose into energy, it needs a hormone called insulin. However, the body of a diabetic cannot use the insulin it produces. It could also mean that their body does not create enough insulin. In some cases it could even mean a combination of the two.

What are the effects of diabetes?

If your body cannot take in the glucose it needs, it will build up in your blood. If the sugar levels in your blood are too high, it will damage the blood vessels in your eyes, heart, kidneys and even your central nervous system. If left untreated it could lead to severe health ailments such as heart disease, stroke, kidney infection, loss of eyesight and nerve damage in your feet.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

• Increased urination
• Increased thirst
• Increased appetite
• Sudden weight loss
• Fatigue
• Irritability
• Blurred vision
• Slow-healing sores
• Frequent infections

Are there different types of diabetes?

Yes, there are three different types:
1. Type 1 diabetes
2. Type 2 diabetes
3. Gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy

Can diabetes be managed?

Yes it can! But each type of diabetes is managed differently. However, there are a few general rules you should follow:

Healthier Diet

• Base your diet on foods that are high in nutrition and low in calories and fats such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains
• Cut down on animal products, refined carbohydrates and sweets

At first you might find it challenging but with the help of an accredited dietician who can help you create a personalised meal plan, it will become a part of your normal lifestyle.

Physical Activity

Exercising lowers your blood sugar level by moving the sugar to the cells where it’s converted into energy for the body. Exercising also lowers your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which means it needs less insulin to transport the sugar to your cells.

Medication:

Type 1 Diabetes:
This form of diabetes requires insulin. There are several types of insulin, including rapid-acting insulin, long-acting insulin and several intermediate varieties, depending on your needs. Insulin cannot be taken orally to lower blood sugar levels since the enzymes in the stomach prevent it from being absorbed. It must be injected or administered with the use of a small pump.

Type 2 Diabetes:

This can be managed through simple changes to your lifestyle, oral medication or insulin injections. Some oral medication stimulates the pancreas to produce and release more insulin. There are others, which inhibit the production and release of glucose from the liver, so that you need less insulin to transport the sugar to your cells. There are even types that block the stomach or intestinal enzymes, which break down carbohydrates or make the tissues more receptive to insulin.

Gestational Diabetes:

This form of diabetes can be managed by controlling your baby’s blood sugar levels and avoid complications during delivery. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and monitoring your blood sugar levels will help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level. If your sugar level rises, your baby may release high levels of insulin which could lead to them suffering from low blood sugar levels.

What is a healthy blood sugar level?

There are several different ways to test your blood sugar levels. The most common way to test it is to use a rapid test using blood from pricking your finger after an overnight fast.

A blood sugar level of less than 5.6mmol/L is considered average.
6.6 to 6.9mmol/L is considered pre-diabetic.
7mmol/L on two separate tests means you might have diabetes.
These tests do not diagnose diabetes but rather give an indication of risk.

How can you improve blood sugar levels?

• Adopt a healthy diet and lower your intake of sugar, fat and carbohydrates
• Consume alcohol responsibly
• Exercise at least 3 times a week
• Use prescribed medication as advised
• Test your glucose levels often

Can diabetics eat chocolate?

Yes you can have your chocolate and still eat it! These days there are chocolates that are diabetic-friendly, with significantly less sugar and calories than the normal kind. For more information click here to read The Dieter’s (and Diabetic Persons) Guide to Buying Chocolate.

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