- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Living with Diabetes
Now that we’ve discussed what Diabetes is, let’s look at ways to prevent it. If you haven’t yet read the introduction please read it here.
Type 1 Diabetes
Currently there are no ways to prevent type 1 diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes you’ll need to see a doctor for treatment. The doctor will help you with the treatment as well as monitor you for any complications that may arise.
Since type 1 diabetes occurs because the body is not able to produce insulin, the treatment involves supplying your body regularly with insulin so as to control the glucose levels.
The insulin is usually delivered through injections. The insulin will help the body in maintaining glucose levels within the normal range thus preventing symptoms and other complications associated with high blood glucose levels such as kidney, eye and nerve damage.
More information on treatment should be available from your doctor.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is mainly prevented by making modifications to one’s lifestyle. This involves particularly:
1. Maintaining a healthy weight
A good way to prevent diabetes is control your weight. Weight loss by 5% or 10% will help you to lower blood sugar and other heart diseases. You can know whether you have a healthy weight by calculating your body mass index (BMI).
A healthy BMI is between the range of 18.5 and 24.9. You can calculate your BMI using the calculator provided here: BMI Calculator
2. Doing regular exercise
For adults between the ages of 19 – 64 it’s recommended for one to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. This could involve jogging, running, fast walking, cycling, swimming etc.
3. Eating a healthy and varied diet
Eating a diet rich in fibre and reducing your intake of sugar and fat can help in prevention of type 2 diabetes. Some dietary recommendations include:
- Regularly consume foods that are rich in fibre such as fruits, vegetables, pulses (beans, lentils) and whole grain foods .
- Eat wholegrain foods like foods cooked with whole-wheat flour, whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, whole maize meal/cornmeal etc.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits.
- Avoid or reduce intake of foods that are high in fat like fried foods, butter, ghee, fatty cuts of meat, cakes, pastries etc. Where possible use low fat alternatives like low-fat dairy products (skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt).
- Avoid or reduce intake of foods that contain sugar like sweets, pastries and sugary drinks like soft-drinks.
- Avoid fatty and processed meat (sausages, smokies, bacon, ham etc) and instead eat fish, poultry and lean cuts of meat.
- Instead of frying foods which adds unnecessary fats and calories use cooking methods that add little or no fat like steaming, stir-frying, poaching, broiling and grilling, roasting and sautéing.
- Use less salt in your cooking and choose products that are low in salt.
Treatment of type 2 diabetes usually involves modifying ones diet and physical activity. The purpose of this treatment is to help the patient control blood glucose levels and to lose weight for those that are overweight or obese. However some patients may need tablets or insulin injections to control the condition.
More information on treatment will be available from your doctor. Dietary recommendations will be provided by a nutritionist or dietitian.
Living with Diabetes
1. Healthy Diet
People with diabetes don’t need special diets and can eat the same food as the rest of the family so long it’s healthy. Therefore the dietary recommendations we outlined in the prevention of diabetes also applies to those living with it i.e. foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar and high in fiber such as pulses, vegetables, fruits and grains. This will ensure:
- Reduction and maintaining of a healthy weight
- Blood glucose level are kept within a good ranges
- Prevention of cardiovascular diseases
People living with diabetes however need individualized meal plans. A meal plans is a guide that tells you how much and what kinds of food you can choose to eat at meals and snack times. Patients can consult with their doctors to see a dietitian who will guide them in developing a good meal plan that fits with the food they normally eat at home.
2. Eat regularly without skipping meals
Meals should be eaten at about the same time every day and at similar amounts. Meals should also not be skipped especially for those taking insulin injections or diabetes pills as the blood sugar may become too low. Skipping meals may also make you eat more in the next meal.
It may be better to eat several small meals during the day instead of one or two big meals.
3. Alcohol intake
People with diabetes should follow the same guidelines as those without diabetes if they choose to drink to alcohol:
- Women: no more than 1 drink per day
- Men: no more than 2 drinks per day
You should however consult with your doctor first to know whether it’s safe for you to consume alcohol.
Note: One drink is the equivalent of 12 oz (355mls) beer, 5 oz (148mls) glass of wine or 1 ½ oz (44mls) distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.)
Exercise is recommended for diabetics as it helps in:
- Achieving a healthy weight
- Increases insulin sensitivity making it work better to lower blood sugar
You should however consult with your doctor first before starting exercise so as to ensure you have no complications. This is because some kinds of exercises may not be suitable for certain conditions (see diabetic foot below). The doctor should advise you on suitable exercises. You may have to carry snacks when you’re exercising in case your blood sugar becomes low. Also when exercising alert others that you are diabetic or wear something that will tell them this.
4. Test your blood sugar daily or as instructed by your doctor
Measuring blood sugar is important in management of diabetes. You should consult with your doctor on how to measure your blood glucose levels and how often you should measure it.
5. Take your medicine (insulin or diabetes pills) as prescribed by your doctor
6. Diabetic Foot
High blood glucose from diabetes can over time damage your nerves or blood vessels. This damage can cause you to lose feeling in your feet and therefore you may not feel a cut, a blister or a sore. For this reason you must prevent injuring your feet. Check your feet daily and dry your feet after a bath or after washing your legs. Also wear socks and closed shoes which fit you properly. Any suspicious change on the foot e.g. pain or colour change should be reported to your doctor. Other tips to avoid foot problems are:
- Check your feet every day
- Ensure good hygiene
- Trim your toenails regularly or have somebody help you
- Protect your feet from heat and cold
- Keep blood flowing to your feet
- Keep the skin soft and smooth