November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and 14 November is National Diabetic Day.
How many people do you know who suffer from diabetes, aka sugar, or suiker as we say in Cape Town?
Probably quite a few if statistics are anything to go by.
Diabetes is a debilitating disease that is the leading cause of death for South African women.
Worryingly, many people remain undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.
This is a serious problem in our communities and the most important thing to do is get tested and diagnosed before it affects your life.
In extreme cases, sufferers have had to amputate toes, feet and other limbs if the disease is not treated.
In worst case scenarios, diabetes can also lead to death.
The Department of Health and the Diabetes Alliance of South Africa are encouraging mense to get tested this month and know their diabetes status to make the necessary lifestyle changes in terms of diet and exercise.
Free screening is available at all public clinics and participating pharmacies across the country during National Diabetes Month.
It is important to understand how different foods impact blood glucose levels.
The Association for Dietetics in South Africa has these practical tips:
- Choose healthier carbohydrates. All carbs tend to raise blood glucose levels, but some provide nutrients important for health.
- Focus on high fibre carbs such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsweetened dairy products and legumes such as chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils instead of refined carbohydrates with added sugar, fat and salt.
- Fruits contain natural sugars which can affect your blood glucose management.
- Swap out red fatty and processed meat with healthier alternatives such as beans and lentils, as well as eggs, fish and poultry.
- Opt for mono-unsaturated fats like olive or canola oils, avocado, olives and nuts.
- Portion sizes are important, don’t eat yourself dik, eating any food no matter how healthy in excess is bad for you.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy.
There are three types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes, sometimes called insulin-dependent diabetes, is where your pancreas doesn’t produce enough, or any, insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, where your body makes enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly.
- Finally, there's gestational diabetes, which only occurs during pregnancy.
If you have never had diabetes before but have high blood glucose levels during pregnancy, you are said to have gestational diabetes.
- 3 in 5 people with diabetes in South Africa are undiagnosed.
- Diabetes kills more people than TB, HIV and malaria combined.
- Diabetes is a leading cause of heart attacks, stroke, eye disease (blindness), kidney failure and lower limb amputations.
Risk factors of diabetes include being overweight or obese (BMI over 25), especially excess fat around your tummy, plus one or more of these factors:
- Family history of diabetes
- High-risk race (Asian, Indian, Coloured)
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure (≥ 140/90 mmHg) or cholesterol problems
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease history
- Diabetes during pregnancy or a baby over 4kg
- All adults over 45 years old should have an annual diabetes screening.