“An estimated 2 million South Africans do not know that they have diabetes.” – according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).
What is diabetes?
When you eat, your body turns food into sugars or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin serves as the key to open your cells and let the glucose enter. This allows you to use the glucose for energy, but with diabetes (a condition in which the body struggles with producing the correct amounts of insulin) this process does not work as it should. With no insulin, sugar builds up in the blood and the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose. If the disease is left untreated, the high level of blood sugar can damage eyes, kidneys and nerves (Dr. N Aziz, Family Medicine).
Diabetes increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems – heart attack, stroke, narrowing of arteries, coronary artery disease with chest pain, etc.
Signs of diabetes:
Are you suffering from these symptoms?
Do you have extreme fatigue and always hungry?
Are you always thirsty?
Do you have a dry mouth and itchy skin?
Are you suffering from a blurry vision?
Are you having frequent urination?
Do you have slow-healing sores or cuts?
Do you suffer from numbness in your hands and feet?
Do you usually feel dizzy?
Who is at risk of getting diabetes?
• Anyone can get diabetes.
• Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, but it often appears during childhood or adolescence.
• Type 2 diabetes (the more common type) can develop at any age though it is more common in people older than 40. As people grow older, the risk of getting type 2 diabetes also increases.
• Other risks factors include: being overweight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and physical inactivity.
How should diabetes be managed?
Diabetes can be managed but requires commitment. To manage diabetes, it is important to plan what you eat at each meal; always bring healthy snacks with you; manage your blood sugar levels; attend medical appointments and exercise regularly.
Since diabetes become more common as people age, it is possible that many of our staff may have parents who suffer from diabetes. If that is the case, it might be necessary for you to help take care of them.
Helping your parents to manage diabetes:
Educate yourself about diabetes. Taking care of a diabetic is not easy but possible, below are some tips:
- Get medical advice;
- Encourage people suffering from diabetes to talk about their fears and to report any problems –swelling, cuts, blisters, sores that don’t go away, etc;
- Make it a priority to monitor their diet. The whole family must eat a nutritious diet;
- Encourage exercise or physical activity – the whole family can participate to give the diabetic support;
- Ensure they take their medication as prescribed by a medical practitioner;
- Minimise stress and help them in appreciating life and being optimistic;
- Remember, sleep is very important!