Diabetes is an issue that is so prevalent in this modern world that you probably know who has this disease. It doesn’t help that people with diabetes are much more likely to suffer heart failure (between 2 to 4 times) than someone without this illness. On the flip side, heart failure itself is a possible hazard in causing diabetes.
Some of the latest research in patients who have gone through heart failure in India suggests that patients tend to have many negative beliefs and behaviours regarding self-care. This is impacted by socioeconomic factors, gender and education level. Victims of this disease, which needs to be managed long term, seem to have trouble sticking to good self-care actions. With disorders like this, medication and doctors are not enough, the sick person must also be involved by taking care of themselves.
In the case of diabetes as well, there are several things that most people can do to help them better control the disease. This in turn should have good consequences for the person’s overall health.
What is diabetes
In an effort to make this information accessible to as many people as possible, we’ll keep this as simple as possible.
The cells of your body need fuel to function properly. For most of the body’s cells, this fuel is glucose (a type of sugar). The hormone responsible for making glucose go into your cells is called insulin. When you eat and digest food, your body naturally produces more insulin and it is transported throughout your body through the blood. Because of the insulin being there the glucose from your food can be used nicely by your cells, for energy or even storing energy for later.
But, if your body doesn’t produce enough insulin then your cells can’t take the glucose inside, this sugar remains in your blood. This is called Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is when the cells in your body are not affected by insulin, usually slowly over a longer period of time. The causes are related to lifestyle factors, especially obesity. The result of both types of diabetes results in high blood glucose (sugar) levels.
What are some things you can do
In general, but especially in developing nations with ever-increasing rates of diabetes, it’s quite common that people often have incomplete knowledge of the disease. As well as not having enough understanding of things that they can do themselves to help their condition, or things to avoid so that it doesn’t get worse.
Without further ado, let’s look at and understand some straightforward things you can do to manage your diabetes.
Now that you know that diabetes makes your blood sugar high, it’s easy to see that you should be eating foods that help you keep your blood sugar levels low. Include whole grains and fibre rich foods in your diet, and stick to good fats such as those found in nuts, oils from vegetable sources and fish. Lower your use of bad fats such as red meats, chicken skin, whole-fat dairy products, coconut and palm oils, ghee and ice-cream. Your doctor may even advise you to cut these things from your diet completely.
You might already know this, but sugary beverages such as sodas, premade caffeinated drinks, fruit drinks and juices are all not good when you’re trying to keep your blood sugar low. You should also make sure your meal sizes are appropriate and try to watch how particular foods affect your glucose level. Finally, if your meals are not balanced or if you don’t eat enough food while you’re on diabetes medication, you might experience very low levels of blood sugar. (In this case, it is okay to have sugar-rich foods or beverages to quickly raise your blood sugar to normal).
You can quickly look up the nutritional content of most foods online if you’re not sure whether a particular food is good for you or not. Note: dietary requirements for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, while similar, they are not the same. Always talk to your doctor if you have doubts regarding what is allowed or not allowed in your diet.
No more tobacco
People who smoke tobacco cigarettes have twice the risk of gradually developing diabetes compared with non-smokers. This is mainly because using tobacco can lead to your body becoming resistant to insulin, which obviously leads to higher blood sugar. In fact, tobacco usage (along with a bad diet, lack of physical activity, and being overweight) is one of the top Type 2 diabetes risk factors which can be adjusted by the affected person.
Tobacco usage (smoking, chewing, etc.,) should be reduced heavily or stopped altogether. If you find yourself mentally unable to cope and stop tobacco usage, reach out to friends, family or counsellors for help and support.
Lower alcohol consumption
Similar to the previous entry on our list, alcohol can mess with your blood sugar and your insulin levels. Excessive and prolonged alcohol use can disrupt your pancreas, and since insulin is produced in your pancreas this can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Drinks like sweet wines and beer can cause your blood sugar to go up, and in many cases drinking excess alcohol can cause very low blood sugar. This is especially dangerous for Type 1 diabetes patients. Please speak with your doctor regarding what is allowable for you.
Alcohol is an appetite stimulant, making you want to overeat. Most alcoholic drinks also happen to be calorie-rich, which will contribute to weight gain. This brings us nicely to our next topic.
Being overweight or having obesity is tied very strongly to diabetes. Some experts stating that nearly 90% of diabetes patients are either overweight or obese, making it a very clear risk for developing the disease. Weight reduction, therefore, is of utmost importance, as it has been proven that proper weight loss (as directed by your doctor/ professional dietician) can reduce the potency of diabetes in most people. Some studies found that reducing your weight by just 7% could increase your body’s ability to use insulin by 57%!
The effects of losing weight properly cannot be overstated, it is essential to have a fixed plan for this with your doctor or health provider. They are likely to suggest diet changes (such as those we have already mentioned) as well as an exercise plan. Speaking of which…
In partnership with your doctor, make an exercise plan that is appropriate for your particular body and age. In most cases having a regular brisk walk for 30mins a day is more than enough, however, the exact details will come down to your doctor’s decision. For type 1 diabetes patients, your doctor may prescribe a change to insulin injections depending on your exercise schedule. One thing to keep in mind is to always stay hydrated.
While diabetes can progress and get worse, leading to cardiovascular complications and even heart failure it’s not always the case. The hopeful news is that for Type 2 diabetes (90% of diabetes patients have Type 2 diabetes) symptoms can be reduced and even totally reversed through proper diet, daily exercise, stopping of harmful substances like tobacco, alcohol and planned weight loss. Be sure to check your blood sugar levels regularly!