Health & Fitness

Diabetes: Easy steps to managing this disease

Being overweight, or obese is the biggest risk
Being overweight, or obese is the biggest risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Cases of diabetes have increased and at least half of those living with the disease remain undiagnosed.

According to the most recent Kenya Demographic and Heath Survey, the percentage of people reported to have the disease increased after the age of 40 for both men and women.

During a Diabetes Awareness Open Day at Aga Khan University Hospital recently, Nancy Kunyiha, a diabetologist endocrinologist at the hospital noted the escalation of the cases and here tackles the most frequently asked questions as raised in the forum on the subject.

Can diabetes be cured, or reversed?

If you have diabetes, you have a lifelong task of managing the condition. Type 1 and some forms of diabetes are not curable. The important thing is to develop positive lifestyle changes. By eating healthier, being more physically active, and losing weight, you can reduce your symptoms, or even reverse some types of diabetes.

Early diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose can sometimes be managed with lifestyle changes alone. However follow up is essential with your health provider to ensure glucose levels remain within expected range to prevent complications.

Do I need to be on medication?

This varies from person to person. Depending on your glucose levels, you may need to be on medication for the rest of your life. Some types of diabetes can be managed easily by strictly watching what you eat and monitoring your sugar levels and others require oral medication and insulin or both. Individuals with type 1 diabetes are managed with insuilin.

Is there a special diet for the diabetic?

Whether you are trying to prevent, or control diabetes, your nutritional needs are virtually the same as everyone else, so no special foods are necessary. However, if you are at risk or have diabetes, you should stop refined sugars, sodas and very high calorie drinks and snacks.

Reduction in overall carbohydrates especially if one has a sedentary lifestyle can help with weight loss. Losing just five to 10 percent of your total weight can help lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

Does being obese predispose me to diabetes?

Being overweight, or obese is the biggest risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. However, the risk is higher if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs. A lot of belly fat surrounds the abdominal organs and liver and is closely linked to insulin resistance.

Does having diabetes mean I cannot eat carbohydrates, or sugary foods?

The type of carbohydrates you eat as well as serving portions is important. Focus on whole grain carbohydrates instead since they are high in fibre and are digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more even. Sugary foods should be avoided.

Is a diet high in protein good for a person with diabetes?

A diet for diabetes is more about your overall dietary pattern rather than obsessing over specific foods. A healthy diet is a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats as our bodies need all three to function properly. You should seek a nutritionist review at diagnosis.

What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?

About 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. The risk increases with age, overweight, sedentary living, if you have a family history of diabetes, or are of African, or Asian origin, if you have had large babies over 4kg or conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Are there other complications associated with diabetes?

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a number of serious health complications, if diabetes is not managed well. These include cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation.

Maintaining blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol at, or close to normal can help delay and prevent diabetes complications.

Aga Khan University Hospital