Diabetes: Take control

The World Diabetes Day campaign emphasises the need to understand diabetes and be proactive

girl reading with her grandfatherWorldwide, over 250 million people live with diabetes and the number is projected to increase dramatically within the next 20 years. Unlike the proactive sufferers of other diseases, people with diabetes are responsible for 98 per cent of their own care. Hence, the International Diabetes Federation [IDF] has made “Diabetes Education and Prevention” the theme of its World Diabetes Day campaign for the period 2009 – 2013.

Preventing diabetes

At present, type-1 diabetes cannot be prevented. However, type-2 diabetes can be prevented in some cases by maintaining healthy weight and being physically active. IDF recommends at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling or dancing to prevent diabetes. Regular walking for at least 30 minutes per day, for instance, reduces the risk of type-2 diabetes by 35 – 40 per cent.

Prevention efforts should target those at risk of type-2 diabetes. Once identified, people at high risk of diabetes should have their plasma glucose levels measured by a health professional to ascertain whether they have diabetes. The test can also indicate the presence of impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance, both of these indicate an increased risk of type-2 diabetes.

Getting familiar with the risk factors

There are many risk factors for type-2 diabetes. They include:

  • Obesity and excess weight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Previously identified glucose intolerance
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Old age
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • A family history of diabetes
  • A history of gestational diabetes.

So, if you think you are at risk, get tested.

Knowing warning signs

People who believe they are at risk should recognise the warning signs of diabetes. They are:

  • Tiredness
  • Lack of interest and concentration
  • A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst.

These warning signs can be mild or sometimes even absent in people with type-2 diabetes. This is why many people are not aware that they have diabetes. If you have any of these signs or symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Managing diabetes

Diabetes is difficult. It imposes life-long demands on people and their families, who have to make a multitude of decisions related to managing diabetes. What’s most important in managing diabetes is understanding the limitations and the areas that can be worked upon.

When it comes to diabetes, there are some things you can’t change like:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Age
  • Belonging to a certain ethnic group.

Fortunately, there are things that you can change like:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Increase your levels physical activity
  • Quit smoking
  • Take your medicines as prescribed
  • Know optimum levels for blood glucose and blood pressure and ask what to do if they go haywire
  • Ask your doctor to monitor your HbA1c every few months
  • Check your eyes, kidney function, blood fats, feet and heart frequently, if you are at risk
  • Make regular visits to your diabetes doctor.

Diabetes education is a critical factor in meeting the challenges of type-2 diabetes. Without it, people are less prepared to take informed decisions, make behavioural changes, and address the psychosocial issues presented by diabetes.

So, learn as much as you can about diabetes and about preventing/managing it successfully.

World Diabetes Day

The World Diabetes Day campaign [celebrated every year on November 14.] is led by the International Diabetes Federation [IDF] and its member associations. Goals of World Diabetes Day [2009 – 2013] campaign are:

  • Every diabetic should receive evidence-based education to help them manage their diabetes.
  • Everyone should know the warning signs of diabetes, how to prevent or delay the complications.
  • Every government should implement effective strategies and policies for the prevention and management of diabetes.
  • Every country should celebrate World Diabetes Day.
Marg McGill
Marg Mcgill is senior vice-president of the International Diabetes Federation [IDF] since 2003. She holds a Masters degree in Medicine and has managed Australia's largest Diabetes centre for 15 years.


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