According to Statistics South Africa, diabetes makes up 7.9% of all deaths in the Coloured community. That means that diabetes kills about 2600 Coloureds a year, making it the leading cause of deaths in the Coloured community. To make matters worse, it is estimated that more than 180 000 Coloureds currently suffers from diabetes and this number only includes those that have been diagnosed. There could be many more who do not know that they have diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects our bodies’ ability to regulate our blood sugar (glucose) levels properly. In other words, the body produces too much blood sugar. There are 2 main types of diabetes, namely: Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 Diabetes destroys the cells which are responsible for producing insulin (a hormone that manages our blood sugar) in the pancreas. This type of diabetes gets worse and worse until there is little to no production of insulin. People who are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes are prescribed insulin injections and pumps, which they will be on for the rest of their lives. Usually, Type 1 Diabetes affects mostly children and teenagers, but lately more and more adults are being diagnosed.
Type 2 Diabetes is the more common form of Diabetes, which is linked to people who live unhealthy lifestyles and who are obese. Someone with Type 2 Diabetes has a disorder which is called Insulin Resistance. Cells in the body cannot properly absorb the insulin produced by the pancreas, which causes extremely high blood sugar levels immediately after eating (for those of you that fasts, this can also affect you).
How do you know you have Diabetes?
The short answer? You don’t, so you will have to go and see a doctor. However, there are signs that could indicate that you may have diabetes.
These include blurred vision, being more hungry and tired than usual, peeing more often and being thirstier, and having a dry mouth and itchy skin. Other signs include slow-healing sores or cuts, pain or numbness in your feet or legs, sudden weight loss, nausea and vomiting, and yeast infections. Here is a fun fact: Both men and women can get yeast infections around their genitals, between fingers and toes, and for women, under their breasts.
People often ignore these signs and don’t get themselves diagnosed, which means that you are more likelier to get a stroke, become blind, suffer nerve damage, get a heart attack, get arthritis, and experience kidney failure. Even if you do not see any of these signs, it is still a good idea to have yourself checked out once in a while.
How do I fight against Diabetes?
As the saying “Prevention is better than cure” goes, there are ways to make sure that diabetes does not kill you.
It is shown that exercising for at least 45 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week, decreases the risk of Diabetes. If you already have diabetes, exercise helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
You should also eat a well-balanced diet that contains all of the needed food groups. Not only will this help with regulating your blood sugar levels, but it will also maintain a healthy weight, which leads to overall better health.
According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, your diet should include whole grain products, water, polyunsaturated fats (like vegetable oil), nuts, poultry and fish. Avoid processed carbohydrates (like white bread), red meat and processed meats. If you’re a smoker, try to quit and if you like to drink, don’t overdo it. Surprisingly, they advise that you should avoid sugary drinks (like Coke), and choose coffee or tea instead.
Fighting the Silent Killer
If we don’t look after our bodies, diabetes can become a silent killer that takes our lives one bite at a time. However, the situation is very manageable and it can be overcome by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Once you implement the preventative measures to combat or manage Diabetes, you will see a positive difference in your health because, “the proof is in the pudding”. Whether it is taking the stairs instead of using the lift, going for long walks and eating those fruits and vegetables, the lifestyle you live will influence the rest of your life, so why not make it a positive one?
If you need to know more about diabetes, check out, www.diabetessa.org.za. The website is dedicated to South Africans suffering from Diabetes and has many exciting features like Diabetic-Friendly recipes, as well as access to free medical advice from medical professionals.