Your basic diabetes questions answered in layman's terms.
Without going into the boring technicalities, diabetes, or diabetes mellitus- medically speaking, is a group of metabolic disorders (involving fats, carbohydrates and proteins) that raise the glucose levels in your blood. This is commonly referred to as ‘high blood sugar.’
There are a variety of causes for this, genetic, hereditary or other. But the most common underlying cause of it is that the pancreas does not produce insulin sufficiently or that the body is not able to process the insulin it has to its avail.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels and we do need moderate volumes of glucose in our blood for energy. But excessively raised blood sugar levels can cause a myriad of uncomfortable symptoms which in turn may lead to a range of other health risks and diseases that could even be fatal.
There are generally three types of diabetes. They are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 is also called insulin dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes. This happens when the body cannot make enough insulin to sustain itself and insulin has to be administered externally. It often surfaces at a young age already.
Type 2 mainly occurs when the body cannot channel the insulin it has properly, the body is said to be insulin resistant with high circulating insulin levels. Additionally, the production of insulin by the pancreas may also be deficient, at which point, insulin replacement is needed. This type usually affects older individuals, but increasingly, young, obese people are developing type 2 diabetes worldwide and makes up 90% of all diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that is highly probable during pregnancy, even in women who did not have diabetes before. This is, amongst other factors, due to the hormonal and metabolic changes that pregnant women are subject to. When it happens, it also increases the risk of the mother or baby becoming diabetic afterwards. Studies show this happens in ±14% of pregnancies. Do not go untested!
There are various types of tests that can be performed to determine the diabetes type. Click here to speak to us now or to arrange an appointment for diabetes screening or diagnostic tests.
The most common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Going to the loo frequently
- Being thirsty excessively
- Being hungry almost all the time
- Losing or gaining weight substantially
- Constantly feeling tired
- Not being able to concentrate
- A feeling of pins and needles or numbness in hand and feet
- Blurred vision
- Regularly getting infections
- Wounds that take long to heal
- Vomiting and stomach aches
Life threatening symptoms include:
- Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) which can lead to dehydration, irregular breathing and confusion which may lead to a coma or a heart attack.
- Hyperosmolar states which cause severe dehydration and may progress to a coma or even death.
Rather be safe than sorry. If you suspect that you might have diabetes, speak to us now.
Apart from medical issues that could lead to diabetes, what we eat (the combination of fibre, protein, fats and carbs) plays a huge role in the level of glucose we have in our blood, or our blood sugar. The GI refers to how fast and to what degree a carbohydrate food type will increase or decrease our blood sugar levels.
The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is very true, even more so for people living with diabetes. It is of the utmost importance to become aware of the GI of the food you take in, what foods to avoid, what foods to eat less of and what food to eat more of.
The good news is that when you do, it will make all the difference in your quality of life and go a long way towards helping you control your diabetes. Click here to read about how our dieticians can help you decipher the complexities of it.
BMI is a standardised estimate of an individual’s relative body fat calculated from his/her height and weight. Your BMI on its own is a very important indicator of whether your weight is acceptable or not. A higher BMI indicates a greater risk of several conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) and the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
BMI has limitations because it is not a measure of body fatness; very muscular individuals often fall into the overweight category when they are not overly fat. Additionally, BMI may place individuals who have lost muscle into the healthy weight category.
Measuring BMI for very short people or pregnant women is not appropriate. It is believed that excessive abdominal fat is more health threatening than hip or thigh fat. Abdominal/ central obesity is the accumulation of fat around the abdomen. If you have abdominal obesity but normal BMI, you can still be at risk for the health conditions above.
A waistline of over 88cm for women and 102cm for men may increase the risk for developing high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Therefore waist measurement (taken over the naval) together with calculating BMI determine the risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Weight loss has proven to be beneficial in reducing the risk of getting high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. Other benefits of weight loss are:
- Increased life expectancy
- Improved fasting blood glucose, lipid profile and blood pressure
- Reduced abdominal and overall fat percentage
- Decreased stress and anxiety
To find out what you can do to achieve your ideal BMI, click here to speak to us now to arrange an appointment with one of our dieticians.
Physical activity and keeping a healthy weight can help you take care of your diabetes and prevent diabetes problems. Physical activity helps your blood glucose also called blood sugar, stay in your target range.
Physical activity also helps the hormone insulin absorb glucose into all your body’s cells, including your muscles, for energy. Muscles use glucose better than fat does. Building and using muscle through physical activity can help prevent high blood glucose. If your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or if the insulin doesn’t work the way it should, the body’s cells don’t use glucose. Your blood glucose levels then get too high, causing diabetes.
Starting a physical activity program can help you lose weight or keep a healthy weight and keep your blood glucose levels on target. Even without reaching a healthy weight, just a 5-10kg weight loss makes a difference in reducing the risk of diabetes problems.
There are a number of issues that has to be addressed before you get started and different types of physical activities are suitable for different people. To get checked out and get started on the right type of physical activity for you, click here to speak to us now to arrange an appointment with one of our biokineticists.