Raising awareness on diabetes |11 November 2022
Every year, on November 14, the world comes together to celebrate World Diabetes Day. This year’s theme to commemorate the day is ‘Access to diabetes care: Education to protect tomorrow’.
In Seychelles, many people live with this condition, some of whom are undiagnosed. This is because some people do not manifest any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. The important thing therefore is being knowledgeable enough about the condition to seek help as early as possible.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disorder whereby a person has high blood sugar (glucose) level. This happens as a result of the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or the insulin produced being defective. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is involved in the regulation of blood glucose.
There are three main types of diabetes:
1) Type 1 diabetes is autoimmune leading to complete insulin deficiency hence why a person with this diagnosis has to start insulin injections straight away. It has a strong genetic link.
2) Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% of diabetes cases and is linked to poor lifestyle and other risk factors outlined below.
3) Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar during pregnancy and is mainly as a consequence of hormonal changes happening in the body alongside existing risk factors.
When a person has prediabetes their blood sugar is higher than expected but not high enough to meet the diagnosis for diabetes. However, the risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on in life is high.
Risk factors for diabetes
There are certain risk factors that increase a person’s risk for developing diabetes. Some of these factors are modifiable and we have control over them such as poor dietary habits, lack of exercise and being overweight. Others are non-modifiable such as age (>40 years) and family history (genetic predisposition).
Some other common risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, history of gestational diabetes or prediabetes.
Source: International Diabetes Federation (IDF)
Symptoms of diabetes
The symptoms in diabetes are as a result of high blood glucose level. Some people are also asymptomatic (no symptoms).
Healthy eating recommendations
There is no special diet for a person living with diabetes. It is a healthy, balanced diet recommended for the whole family. There is no need therefore to prepare separate meals but rather the emphasis should be getting everyone at home to make healthier food choices.
The quality and quantity of carbohydrates chosen however makes a significant difference in blood glucose level. You are encouraged to choose wholegrains, local tubers, fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts and milk products in your daily food intake.
To simplify the recommendation on how much to include on your plate we encourage you to adopt ‘My healthy plate’ concept as illustrated below.
‘My healthy Plate’ should be used as a guide only as the portion size can vary from one person to another depending on the type of diabetes you have, your medications and blood glucose control. But it is a good starting point especially for those with poorly controlled blood glucose level.
Highly processed and refined foods like white rice, white flour and products made from them such as noodles, cakes, pastries, biscuits, savoury snacks, as well as confectionary, etc. should not be consumed as they can increase your blood glucose level.
Regular meal timing is important especially for those on insulin therapy. This helps the body to better regulate your blood glucose. Try to eat at around the same time each day and monitor which foods tend to cause the greatest shift in your blood glucose throughout the day, from waking up to bedtime.
The best way to do this is to keep a record (usually a small diary/ notebook) of your readings taken using a glucometer.
A glucometer is a small device used to monitor your blood glucose and is a worthy investment if you’re living with diabetes as it allows you to have greater control of your condition.
Other lifestyle changes
As with other chronic conditions, it is advisable to abstain from alcohol as much as possible. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to low blood glucose (Hypoglycaemia). Try to limit alcohol intake to special occasions and consume it occasionally rather than daily.
You are encouraged to be as active as possible. The recommendation is the same as the general population, at least 30 minutes, five times per week. Remember to always consult with your doctor or other health professionals before engaging in vigorous exercise to ensure that it is safe for you.
We hope that you’ve been able to get some greater insight into diabetes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for more support.
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Please get in touch by emailing email@example.com and let us know how you’re doing with these ideas, or better still, let us know how we can help you.
Yours in health
The E4OH Team