Dealing with diabetes

Insulin, a hormone developed in the pancreas, is the catalyst that allows the sugar in various foods to reach your cells where it provides energy. Diabetes indicates the inability of your body to either produce or harness this hormone effectively, thereby leading to a build-up of sugar in your blood (and panic in your system).

Quiz

True or False?

How well do you really know the condition that is afflicting you? Find out.

1. Regular glucose monitoring is not necessary.

2. I can’t exercise because it will worsen my diabetes.

3. I don’t have a family history of diabetes, so I won’t get it.

4. Diabetes isn’t just about blood sugar. It is a serious health issue.

5. Those overweight will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes.

Answers

1. False. Regular monitoring of your sugar level is extremely essential to keep it in check.

2. False. Working out regularly enables you to have better control over diabetes. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise programme.

3. False. Plenty of people diagnosed with the disease don’t have a family history.

4. True. Diabetes causes more deaths in a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart diseases or stroke.

5. False. Being overweight is certainly a risk factor, but other reasons such as family history and lifestyle too can cause diabetes.

The symptoms

1. In case of high blood sugar you may feel the urge to urinate frequently. It is your body’s way of ridding the system of all the excess sugar. Cuts and scrapes are slow to heal and you may also experience intense thirst and tiredness. Sometimes this may be accompanied by numbness or tingling in your hands or feet. Blurry vision may also be a problem. Feeling hungry all the time? This may be yet another symptom as is unexplained weight loss (no need to rejoice over this one, mind you). Irritability, muscle aches and skin infections, particularly fungal infections, may occur.

2. Dizziness, headaches, blurry vision may be observed when the sugar level in your blood is low (commonly due to inappropriate medicinal doses, extreme physical exertion or dietary changes). You may also experience some sweating and palpitations.

It is possible that you may not show any symptoms for several years. So it makes sense to undergo regular checks for diabetes. Early detection is likely to protect you from the more debilitating consequences, which include blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart attack and an impaired nervous system (one of the effects is loss of sensation in your feet, making them prone to injuries that do not heal quickly).

There are several common monitoring and testing methods: random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test and post-lunch or oral glucose tolerance test.

Blood glucose monitoring is a way of testing the concentration of glucose in the blood is particularly important in the care of diabetes. Glucose levels are usually lowest in the morning, before the first meal of the day, termed as “fasting plasma glucose”, and rise after meals for an hour or two. Blood sugar levels outside the normal range may be an indicator of a medical condition.

Need to take care

As an Indian here’s why you should take care. India enjoys the dubious distinction of being the diabetic capital of the world. At present, about four crore Indians are suffering from this affliction. And if the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to be believed, one out of every two diabetic patients in the world will be Indian by 2025. That’s 20 per cent or 33 million diabetic Indians — now that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Embrace these fabulous three to feel your best every day:

1. Cut back on sugar, fats and alcohol. Being overweight does increase your risk for diabetes, and a diet high in calories, especially sugar, fat or alcohol, can contribute to weight gain.

2. Get out of depression. One diabetes patient recalls being so depressed that she refused to get out of bed. She knew she should exercise and eat healthy but she just didn’t feel like it. Know that your diabetes can definitely be reined in; the key is knowledge and action. There is NO reason to be depressed, especially when there is understanding and appreciation of the many available resources to manage the condition. To avoid getting into a trap, find a support group (your friends, family, others who are managing their diabetes are a good place to start), get a hobby or earn some credit by doing volunteer work.

3. Maintain healthy body weight. Focus on making permanent changes to your diet and exercise regimen to achieve this goal.

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.