How to manage Diabetes: things you should know

Updated: May 1

Written by Dietitian Samuel Akapo


Diabetes according to the WHO is a degenerative chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) or alternatively when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Clinically, diabetes is of two (or three) types;




Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body is not able to produce insulin. Clinically known as the Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM). Daily administration of insulin doses are required for patients with type 1 diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes results when the body is not able to effectively utilize the insulin produced by the pancreas. It is also known as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM). This is the most occurring type of diabetes in people around the world. About 90% of people with diabetes around the world have type 2. It is mostly caused by overfeeding which leads to excess body weight and physical inactivity.


Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when a mother with a child is having high blood sugar count than normal. Mothers with gestational diabetes are prone to be diagnosed with diabetes after childbirth if not controlled and put the child at risk of having diabetes later in life.



CAUSES OF DIABETES

Diabetes is caused by a number of factors including but not limited to those highlighted below;

· Excess weights (obesity)

· High physical inactivity level (sedentary lifestyle)

· Consistent unhealthy diet

· Genetics (if relatives have such a history)

· Age advancement

· Smoking and tobacco use

· Alcohol consumption


HOW SIGNIFICANT TO HUMANS IS THE PROBLEM CAUSED BY DIABETES?

We see the costly effects and hazards that diabetes imposes on our society either health or economic wise.

Here are some facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) on statistics about the havoc diabetes has caused.


• In 2004, over 220 million people worldwide had diabetes. And you can be sure the numbers have increased as the years come by.

• WHO projects that diabetes deaths will double between 2005 and 2030.

• Almost half of the diabetes deaths occur in people under the age of 70 years.

• Almost 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.

(WHO publication on diabetes)


WHAT ARE THE HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF HAVING DIABETES?

Elevated blood sugar results from uncontrolled diabetes and this over time can damage a number of organs and systems in the body. Many organs like the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves are at high of damage due to elevated blood sugar levels.


Some health complications from diabetes include:


• Diabetic retinopathy is a significant cause of blindness and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Traditionally, after 15 years of diabetes, about 10% of patients develop severe visual impairment.


• Diabetic neuropathy is damage to the nerves as a result of diabetes. This affects up to 50% of people living with diabetes.

Common general symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet and hands. Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation.


• Diabetes is among the top causes of kidney failure; about 10-20% of people with diabetes die of kidney failure.


• Occurrence of heart disease and stroke is increased by diabetes. About 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease (primarily heart disease and stroke).

Sexual dysfunction in males and females can also be caused by diabetes. Damage to blood vessels and nerves which are important for sexual functioning could also be damaged by diabetes.


And when this happens, it may cause reduced sexual urge in women and or painful sexual intercourse. Impotence, erectile dysfunction, weak ejaculation and so on could be seen in men with diabetes.

A person living with diabetes is at a double risk of dying than their peers without diabetes. More reasons why we all need to take our health and well-being seriously.



HOW DO I PREVENT DIABETES?

In preventing diabetes we need to be careful and deliberate about our actions and inactions. Let it interest you to know that diabetes can be adequately controlled or managed if worked upon.

Below are lists of preventive measures against diabetes:


· Always have your blood sugar levels assessed at intervals.

· Maintain steady healthy body weight.

· Avoid excessive eating of fats and simple carbohydrates majorly in processed foods.

· Increase consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

· Be physically active for at least 30 minutes of deliberate moderate-intensity exercises.

· Quit smoking and other related substances.

· Cut alcohol consumption.



HOW DO I CONTROL OR MANAGE DIABETES?

When one discovers that they are diabetic, there is no need to get depressed or think like it is the end of the world. As described earlier, there are different types of diabetes, and there are different approaches to managing them.

Here are a few dietary rules and health guidelines to follow in controlling and managing diabetes.


Management of type 1 diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes require a daily dose of short and intermediate-acting insulin. Insulin is required to be administered under the physician’s guidance or prescription. Also the need to follow the following guidelines;


· Ensure to have insulin doses at the appropriate time

· Lose few weights if there is a case of obesity or overweight

· Eat more fruits and vegetables

· Choose whole grains and cereals in meals

· Eat less saturated oils

· Avoid wearing too-tight shoes to prevent foot injuries

· Keep an eye on and control blood pressure at all time

· Quit alcohol consumption and smoking

· Exercise and stay active all days

· Screen for any early symptoms of kidney, or heart disease that could have been caused by diabetes.



Control measures for type 2 Diabetes

For those living with type 2 diabetes, a mix of oral medication and dietary modification can be put to use. Depending on the severity, insulin doses could also be recommended. However, talk to your doctor and dietitian to know what is best to do.

In controlling and managing diabetes type 2;

· Control your blood pressure to an optimal level.

· Ensure to lose some weight if there is an overweight case (obesity).

· Eat whole grains and cereals.

· Avoid simple carbohydrates like sweets, chocolates etc. to the best of your ability.

· Have a good amount of fruits and vegetables daily.

· Quit smoking and drinking alcohol.

· Eat healthy (unsaturated) oil such as Olive oil, sunflower oil etc. Avoid consuming saturated oils and transfats in pastries, biscuits and animal foods.

· Exercise daily for at least 30 mins.

· Ensure that you take care of your foot too.

· Avoid all sorts of injuries or piercing to the body.

· Have regular eye check-ups.

· Screen for any early symptoms of kidney, or heart disease that could have been caused by diabetes.



In preventing and managing diabetes of either type, need to ensure you have the right mindset to change and see recommendations not as a burden but as a beneficial practise which should become and habit and ultimately a lifestyle.

Talk to a healthcare professional for your direct and personalized consultation as regards diabetes management or any other diseases. You can contact us using any of our platforms here.

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