This year’s theme for World Diabetes Day – Eyes on diabetes – is particularly close to my heart because my father-in-law was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes early last year after long periods of illness and almost losing his eye-sight. Apparently, he had been living with diabetes undiagnosed for a long time.
The World Health Organisation says that 1 in 2 adults between the ages 20 – 79 yrs live with diabetes undiagnosed, the reason why this years awareness campaign focuses on promoting the importance of screening to ensure early diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and treatment to reduce the risk of serious complications.
In this post, I want to answer frequently asked questions around diabetes and share with you what diabetes is, what the complications are and how to manage diabetes on an African diet. So first things first, some hard facts:
DIABETES IN CAMEROON – 2015
|Total adult population (1000s)
|10,806||Number of deaths in adults due to diabetes||14,998|
|Prevalence of diabetes in adults
(20-79 years) (%)
|6.5||Cost per person with diabetes (USD)||123.0
|Total cases of adults (20-79 years) with diabetes (1000s)||567.3||Number of cases of diabetes in adults that are undiagnosed (1000s)||344.4|
The number of cases of diabetes diagnosed in 2015 in Cameroon is …..with for it 527,300 and a whopping 344.400 cases go undiagnosed. Alarming isn’t it? Learning more about this killer disease and how to prevent and manage it can be life saving. So come with me, let’s learn together.
WHAT IS DIABETES?
If you are like me, you hate doctors jargon. So if you were screened and the doctor said ‘I’m afraid you have diabetes’, what does this mean? Well this is what you need to know; When eat, your body breaks down food into nutrients and transports those nutrients into the cells to be used for either cell repair, cell building or as fuel or energy to keep your body working properly.To get into the cells, the body uses certain …well let’s call them mechanisms or ‘tools’ to open up the cells and let the nutrients in. One of the nutrients which are broken down in the body is glucose or (blood) sugar and your body needs glucose as fuel or energy to function. To get glucose into your cells, your cells need a tool or a key and that key is called insulin. Insulin acts as a key which opens up the ‘doors’ of the cell and permits glucose to come in.
WHAT TYPES EXIST?
A. Type 1 diabetes
In some people, the body does not produce (enough) insulin and so they have no ‘key’ to unlock the cells so that insulin and go in and be used as fuel. In this case we say that you have TYPE 1 DIABETES. Your body has no key to unlock the door of the cells. This usually occurs in children and young adults and 5% of all who have DIABETES have this type which can be managed well with insulin therapy.
B. Type 2 diabetes
In other people, especially adults, there is the presence of the key (insulin) but the key is unable to unlock the door properly. This means that insulin is present but does not do its job well and so causes glucose to accumulate in the bloodstream. Or in some other people, the key is present but the lock is not functioning well, meaning insulin works but cannot get glucose into the bloodstream. This is called TYPE 2 DIABETES which is diagnosed in adults, overweight and obese persons and pregnant women. This type can be reversed with proper nutrition and exercise.
ARE THERE ANY DIABETES COMPLICATIONS?
When undiagnosed and/or untreated, diabetes can cause severe complications ranging from kidney failure, loss of eye sight to stroke and heart attacks. The reason why it is of utmost importance to screen for diabetes especially if you have a family history of diabetes or you are overweight.
WHAT IF I AM DIAGNOSED WITH DIABETES?
Sounds like bad news at first I know, but I want you to know that it’s not the end of your life! Instead, now that you know, you have the chance to change your lifestyle and start living a healthy lifestyle to promote your health. Your general practitioner will give you more details about your condition and will put you on a ‘diet’ for people with diabetes. If you need insulin therapy, he will let you know too. Just make sure to follow his/her recommendations diligently. But here are a few things you want to take note of:
Eat a healthy wholesome well-balanced meal.
Making healthy food choices is very important for well-being an even more so if you are a diabetes patient. You want to make sure that you are eating foods from all the five food groups in their right portion. I know you may be wondering what to eat. Check out our African food pyramid to find out which food groups you should be eating more often. To learn about African nutrition for diabetes patients click HERE!
Studies show that physical activity (PA) can lower your blood glucose up to 24 hours or more after your work out by making your body more sensitive to insulin. Moderate exercise, 30 minutes a day 5 to 6 days a week makes your heart beat a little faster and breathe a little harder. As a result, your muscles use more glucose (the sugar in your blood). Over time, this can lower your blood sugar levels. It also makes the insulin in your body work better. But don’t over exercise yourself. The effect of PA has on your blood glucose will vary depending on how long you are active and many other factors. Try activities like jumping rope, farming, brisk walking, or jogging .
Take your medication
If you are on insulin therapy, i.e. those whose body do not produce insulin, make sure to take your medication as prescribed by your GP. This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to avoid complications.
CAN I EAT AFRICAN WITH DIABETES?
Absolutely! Our food is great for health in general. I wrote about why African food is good for you some time ago. But here is a quick overview; we have a wide range of dark leafy vegetables that can regulate blood sugar, a myriad of unrefined carbs and tubers rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, lots of fruits and vegetables which contain essential vitamins and minerals like vit. A, C and E all essential nutrients for proper body function. In the next post, I’ll talk detailed about African nutrition for diabetes patients. But here are a few meal ideas if you want to eat healthy and manage your diabetes.
BEAT SUGAR DRINK
SAUTEED GREENS & SWEET POTATOES