The facts about diabetes

14 November is Diabetes Day. Arm yourself with the facts to keep yourself and your family healthy.

Diabetes affects an estimated 8 – 10% of the South African population. While the number of people developing diabetes locally and globally is steadily increasing, the good news is that certain lifestyle choices can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the body has difficulty developing the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The body either doesn’t make enough insulin or the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting 85 – 90% of people with diabetes.

Symptoms common to all types of diabetes

  • Tiredness
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Headaches
  • Leg cramps
  • Increased hunger

Where and when to get tested

You don’t have to see a doctor to test your blood sugar, chemists offer this service too. It’s quick and painless.
If diabetes mellitus runs in your family, if you are suffering from typical symptoms or are overweight, you should get your blood sugar tested once every year.

Can you prevent diabetes?

Unlike type 1 diabetes (usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence) and gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born), there are lifestyle factors you can adopt to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

How to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

  • If you have a big waist, downsize it to less than 102cm (men) and 88 cm (women).
  • Exercise for at least 2 ½ hours per week.
  • Include more vegetables in your diet and switch to high fibre and whole grain cereal products.
  • Reduce your fat intake and switch to monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3 fats such as canola, olive oils and sunflower oil.
  • Drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day.
  • Limit sugary foods. A maximum of 10% of your daily calorie intake should come from sugary foods.

Read more about Gestational diabetes and Childhood diabetes.

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