Diabetes: Are You At Risk?

Last week, the world celebrated the World Diabetes Day. All over the globe, different events were held to draw the needed attention to the chronic disease, Diabetes mellitus. Over the next few weeks, we shall be looking closely at this new age pandemic and giving it the necessary attention.

The latest figure shows that globally, 387 million people aged 20 – 70years are living with diabetes (8.3% prevalence) while Africa accounts for over 22 million people with diabetes (IDF Diabetes Atlas Sixth Edition Update, International Diabetes Federation 2014).

The real worry about diabetes is the complications that arise. Early detection and treatment can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes. There are certain symptoms that can be described as typical for diabetes. However, some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms, so mild, that they go unnoticed; the so called “silent disease”.

Some of the common symptoms include;

  • Urinating often

  • Feeling unusually very thirsty

  • Feeling very hungry; even though you are eating very often

  • Losing weight, even though you are eating more

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Blurred vision

  • Recurrent boils on the skin

  • Cuts/ bruises that are slow to heal

  • Tingling, numbness or pain in the hands (type 2)

Are you at risk of developing diabetes? Have you already been diagnosed with diabetes?

Many people are at risk of developing diabetes but don’t even know it. You can take a Simple Diabetes Risk test to see if you at risk. The test involves a few questions about your weight, height, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Depending on your score, you will either be grouped as low, medium or high risk with scores between 0 – 10. Whichever group you belong to, together we can look at ways to lower your risk of developing diabetes.

There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Some of these risk factors, you can change, like whether you smoke or not, whether you are overweight or not, and some you cannot change, like your age, your gender or your race. It is very important to understand the risk factors for diabetes so that you can take steps to lower your risk thereby giving yourself a chance to live a longer and healthier life.

The following are known risk factors;

  • Being overweight

  • High blood glucose (sugar)

  • High blood pressure

  • Unhealthy blood cholesterol level

  • Physical inactivity

  • Smoking

  • Unhealthy eating

  • Gestational diabetes (diabetes occurring during pregnancy)

  • Age, race, gender, and family history.

If you have identified any of the above, please don’t despair. Help is here. Visit your health care provider and ask about your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Once you’ve got that consultation visit out of the way, you can then make up your mind to institute some lifestyle changes. Making a few small changes to eat healthier, stop smoking, and move more can have a big effect on your health. Taking it one day at a time, a change here, a change there, is what it will take.

According to Dr. David Katz, President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, “it’s all about fingers, forks and feet”. It is easier to make lifestyle changes, one step at a time, over days, weeks, months, and then sustain the changes over the years to come. The great news is that making a few small changes can have a big impact on your weight, health and wellbeing.

  • Choose healthy foods

  • Make healthy meals

  • Eat and enjoy your food at breakfast, lunch and dinner

  • Be active, Let’s move more!; exercise for at least 30 minutes, every day, 5 days a week.

  • Stop smoking; be smoke free.

If you believe your health and overall wellbeing is at risk, you must then accept that the time has come to make some lifestyle behavioural changes. In order to succeed, identify the changes you want to see and break it down into small steps then ask yourself very candidly;

  • Am I willing to change?

  • Am I able to change?

  • Am I ready to change?

The changes that are necessary will usually involve, what you eat, what you drink, what you smoke, how active you are and how sleep or relax. Making the change must be important to you. In other words, you must have good reasons to change. Not necessarily because someone else is nagging you to stop smoking, exercise more or eat healthily.

You may want the lifestyle changes in order to prevent type 2 diabetes because you want to live long enough to see your grand children grow up. You must also believe you can do it. You must have confidence in your ability to go through whatever modification you need to make.

Don’t try to make all the changes at once, one step at a time. Perhaps choose one change in your eating habits and another in activity. For example, if you tend to have late night snacks, while watching TV, you can decide to modify that or stop it. Begin by changing the snack from a not-so-healthy one e.g. a bowl of ice cream, to a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit.

If you live a sedentary life right now, decide to move more! You can give yourself specific times of the day, when you must move more! E.g. for the next one month, I will have 15 minutes of brisk walk every day. For every goal you set for yourself, keep it simple, realistic and specific.

Eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Staying a healthy weight can help you prevent and manage problems in type 2 diabetes. Physical activity can do a lot more than you can imagine.

Are you at risk of having diabetes? Or have you been diagnosed with diabetes? Or are you indeed prediabetic?

Please visit your doctor if you are not sure, or if you think you may be at risk.

Think Healthy

Stay healthy

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