A-B-C of diabetes

Use alphabets to help you manage your diabetes better

blackboard with ABC lettersDiabetes touches the lives of most of us—either you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it, or you know someone who has it. That’s why it’s necessary that you familiarise yourself with important facts about the condition. ABC of diabetes is an easy way to learn things about diabetes management that will help you live a healthy life, especially if you are a diabetic.

A for active life

Take up a physical activity you enjoy—walking, jogging, dancing, swimming or cycling—on a regular basis. Experts recommend engaging in 30 – 45 minutes of physical activity [moderate intensity] to reduce your risk of obesity, blood pressure, heart disease and other lifestyle disorders. It is also important to stay active throughout the day.

B for balanced diet

Six small meals instead of two or three large ones make it easier to control diabetes. Limit your intake of overtly sweet and fried foods. Instead include whole grains, pulses and nuts, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat milk products in your diet—they are good for people with diabetes. Eating adequate fibre every day helps. A traditional Indian meal that contains salad, vegetables, dal, whole wheat flour chapattis or brown rice with little modifications is best.

C for cutting down alcohol

Limit alcohol consumption to two drinks for men and one drink for women. One drink equals 300ml if it’s a beer, 150ml if it’s wine and 45ml if it’s distilled liquor.

D for diagnosis

When fasting blood glucose levels go over 126mg/dl or 2-hour postmeal blood sugar levels go over 200mg/dl, a person is diagnosed with diabetes. If fasting level is between 100mg/dl – 125mg/dl, or postprandial level is between 140mg/dl – 199mg/dl, this indicates that one has pre-diabetes, which means that she is at risk of developing diabetes if she does not adopt a right lifestyle.

F for foot care

Pay close attention to your feet to catch anomalies like a cut, a sore, a blister, or a bruise in time. Consult your doctor for any problems, even if they are small. Wear shoes that protect your feet from all sides and that aren’t an effort to wear. Diabetics should get their feet checked at least once a year for changes in sensation, circulation and to rule out infection.

H for HbA1c

HbA1c [glycated haemoglobin] is a test that measures average blood glucose over 2 – 3 months. People with diabetes need to maintain their HbA1c level between 6 and 7 to avoid developing diabetes-related complications. At the time of diagnosis, if the HbA1c count is more than 9, or at any time in spite of taking two or three oral diabetes medications, the HbA1c count is more than 7.5, then you may need to take insulin. An HbA1c test is best done every three months or at least twice a year.

I for insulin

Insulin is a hormone that our body produces to help process sugar. If the body cannot produce insulin or produces less insulin, a person develops diabetes. Some of us make it in our body and others have to take it from outside. If no matter what you do, your HbA1c count keeps rising, you may have to start insulin therapy.

M for medicine

Those with type-1 diabetes need insulin injections every day. There are mainly two types of insulin—conventional human insulin and modern insulin analogues. Insulin analogues are more predictable and safe and also provide convenience and flexibility as they can be taken just before or even after eating. People with type-2 diabetes too may require tablets and some may even need insulin. In addition, there are other treatments that help keep blood sugar levels in control, which the doctors prescribe depending on one’s blood sugar levels, age, weight, and health complaints.

N for new therapies

e.g. GLP-1 analogues. This therapy helps control diabetes and lowers systolic blood pressure. However, don’t self-medicate as only your doctor can judge the treatment that suits you.

S for stop smoking

Smoking is bad for diabetics as it ups their chances of developing complications such as stroke and heart disease. It also affects blood circulation.

T for tests

You need to undergo tests to keep a check on your condition. These tests include: blood pressure measurement whenever you visit your doctor, lipid profile, eye examination and urine exam among other tests. Your doctor may ask you to do more tests as and when required.

W for weight

Maintain a healthy BMI. If you are slightly overweight, lose up to 5 per cent – 10 per cent of your body weight as losing weight helps your body use insulin better. Even if you lose a little weight, your chances of diabetes reduce significantly, so does your risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and stroke.

Diabetes, if not controlled, can lead to serious long-term complications like heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputations and other conditions. Treatment of diabetes requires maintaining blood sugar levels within normal range with the help of medications, exercise, and diet. Any medication is only a part of the diabetes treatment plan and cannot be a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise. The best way to live happily with diabetes is to take an active part in your treatment plan.

This was first published in the November 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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