South Africa is one of the 48 countries of the IDF (International Diabetes Federation) Africa Region (AFR). According to the IDF, there are 24 million people living with diabetes within the AFR. This rate is expected to increase to 55 million by 2045. The proportion of undiagnosed diabetes is the highest in the AFR Region at 53.6%.
Although diabetes can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with the correct diet, physical activity, medication and regular screening, monitoring and treatment, 1 in 10 adults (approx. 537 million) adults are currently living with diabetes, globally.
These statistics make it imperative to acknowledge World Diabetes Day (observed annually on 14 November) in the AFR to spread awareness and educate the population around the symptoms, early testing and diagnosis as well as the management and treatment of diabetes. Once a patient is diagnosed, it is important to enhance knowledge, attitude and patients’ behaviour to achieve glycemic control and prevent the development of health complications associated with diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. The body breaks down most of the food one eats into sugar (glucose) and releases it into the bloodstream. When the blood sugar goes up, it signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.
With diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t process it sufficiently. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in the bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.
This year Roche Diabetes Care, a frontrunner in personalised healthcare is emphasising the theme of “Education to protect tomorrow” through early awareness, education, and personalised monitoring.
Types of diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent, juvenile, or childhood-on set) is an autoimmune disease characterised by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin.
In Type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and can be more severe. Type 1 diabetes is generally diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can occur at any age.
Type 2 diabetes (also called non-insulin-dependent, or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. More than 95% of people living with diabetes have type 2 diabetes and the symptoms tend to come on more gradually than type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can develop over the course of several years and is a result of a combination of different risk factors such as being over 45, being overweight, have a sedentary lifestyle, being a smoker, having a family history of diabetes, having high blood pressure and abnormal triglyceride or HDL cholesterol levels.
Symptoms of diabetes
Some of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are:
- Feeling more thirsty than usual.
- Urinating often.
- Losing weight without trying.
- Presence of ketones in the urine. Ketones are a by-product of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin.
- Feeling tired and weak.
- Feeling irritable or having other mood changes.
- Having blurry vision.
- Having slow-healing sores.
- Getting a lot of infections, such as gum, skin and vaginal infections.
How to manage and monitor diabetes
Thankfully, diabetes can be easily managed through a practice called self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG). SMBG is an approach whereby people with diabetes measure their blood sugar (glycemia) themselves using a glycemic reader (glucose meter).
Based on the reading, they can adjust or check the effect of their treatment (diet, exercise, insulin, antidiabetics, stress management) in consultation with their doctor therefor making it an integral part of one’s diabetes management routine can help take control on their diabetes management. The readings obtained help patients with better understanding of their condition to modify their lifestyle with the support from their doctor for better therapy adjustment.
However, an occasional once a week sugar test data does not have any significance from clinical perspective. Hence, it is crucial to practice regular & structured sugar testing to get clinically relevant data points to act upon. Structured SMBG is nothing but regular sugar checks at predefined times with a clear objective.
Other key areas of how a patient can monitor their diabetes is by using the SELF method:
S: Structured self-monitoring of blood glucose
Set a regular schedule to monitor and record your blood glucose level. Most commonly, it is measured immediately after waking in the morning and 2 hours after lunch. Remember to re-confirm this routine with your doctor.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes should exercise for 150 minutes or more per week and include both aerobics and resistance training. This can be spread over 3 days of the week with a gap of no more than 2 days. Remember to record the hours and type of activity and share it with your doctor.
L: Low, good quality calorie intake
Calories are a measure of energy that your food supplies. What is important to understand is that both the ‘quantity’ and the ‘quality’ of these calories affect the sugar level in your blood. Calories from complex carbs, proteins and healthy fats are considered ‘good calories,’ while those that come from simple carbs and unhealthy fats are said to be ‘bad calories.’ People with diabetes need to count the calories they consume and know the source from which they come. They should do this regularly and for every meal.
F: Follow-up, regularly
For people with diabetes, the importance of regular follow-ups with their doctors and therapy adherence cannot be stressed enough. Even if your blood sugar level is under control, regular visits to your doctor are necessary. Along with this, one must also regularly do eye, HbA1c and kidney and liver examinations to detect early onset of comorbidities related to diabetes in order to provide timely medical intervention.
Roche Diabetes Care encourages South Africans, from all walks of life to get screened for diabetes, work with their health care professional to manage their diabetes and strengthen the care process through an integrated personalised diabetes management.
Article published courtesy of Roche Diabetes Care.