Dealing with diabetes

2014-11-14 00:00

NON-COMMUNICABLE diseases such as diabetes have reached epidemic proportions, yet they could be significantly reduced, with millions of lives saved through the reduction of risk factors, early detection and timely treatment.

This is according to head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Dr Sibongile Zungu, while speaking about World Diabetes Day, which is observed internationally today.

Zungu has urged members of the public to get into the habit of undergoing regular health examinations. “A medical examination is something that should be done at least once a year. Early detection of diseases is always better, cheaper and has a higher cure or management success rate.”

According to South African Survey 2012, a book by the South African Institute for Race Relations, deaths due to diabetes (mellitus) rose by 21% between 2004 and 2009. It is believed that a large number of South Africans with diabetes remain undiagnosed.

According to Zungu, preventing and managing lifestyle diseases, as well as promoting health and wellness, have never been more critical, especially with diabetes contributing to the quadruple burden of disease facing South Africa (HIV/Aids and TB, high maternal and child mortality, non-communicable diseases and violence and injuries).

Leading healthy lifestyles, characterised by regular exercise, a balanced diet and no smoking or drinking, would result in a drastic reduction in the number of people affected by diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke and other non-communicable diseases, Zungu said.

“To become a healthy nation, South Africans need to make informed decisions about what they eat, and whether or not they consume alcohol or smoke,” Zungu said.

Zungu said that although there is no cure for diabetes, the management and control of blood sugar is important as it prevents or reduces the risk of developing the complications associated with the disease. — Supplied.

DIABETES (often called sugar diabetes) is a condition where a person has high blood sugar (glucose) level in the body. You develop diabetes when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Without insulin your body cannot get the energy it needs from your food. Normally, a gland called the pancreas makes insulin which carries the sugar in the blood into the cells. In diabetes, the pancreas fails to supply enough insulin, or the insulin doesn’t work properly. There are two major types of diabetes: type I, commonly called juvenile diabetes, and type 2, called adult onset diabetes.

In type I diabetes, the body’s immune system kills the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin, leaving a person’s body without insulin. In type II diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to insulin.


INCLUDE: age, obesity, genetics, physical inactivity, impaired glucose tolerance.


The symptoms are constant thirst, increased hunger, urinating more than usual, numbness or tingling in fingertips and toes, tiredness, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision or visual disturbance, slow-healing wounds and constant tiredness.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes, but with careful monitoring and commitment, diabetics can avoid complications and enjoy a long, productive life. It is especially important to control weight, blood cholesterol and blood pressure, to do regular exercise, and to avoid smoking.

Dr Sibongile Zungu has advised those living with diabetes as follows:

• attain and maintain a healthy body weight;

• eat small, regular meals, including snacks, and do not skip any meals;

• include plenty of fibre-rich carbohydrates such as whole-wheat products, dry beans, vegetables and fruit;

• give preference to unrefined carbohydrates and include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables in your diet every day;

• limit fat intake, especially saturated fats (animal fats) and remove all visible fat from meat before cooking;

• use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, baking, microwaving or boiling, instead of deep frying or adding fat; and

•drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day. Do regular exercise. Any exercise should be initiated with the permission of a doctor.

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