The daily drill

2012-11-15 00:00

I DON’T know about all of you, but I have been feeling lately as if I am on a treadmill that just keeps getting faster and I am struggling to keep up with the pace of life. It is November again, and that means it is the month when we recognise diabetes and those who manage diabetes as a chronic condition on a daily basis. They have one more thing to fit into their busy lives. Diabetes is ongoing and persistent, and those with diabetes can’t stop one day and say: “I think I will take a holiday from my diabetes this month.”

Managing diabetes is about managing your lifestyle on an ongoing basis, as well as fitting all this into an already busy schedule. So how do you accomplish this?

Meals are important for nutrition and in your social interaction with others. It is also important to enjoy your food and have a variety in what you eat. Remember that there is no such thing as a diabetic diet. It is a healthy meal plan and lifestyle. For someone with diabetes, planning what, when and how much to eat is important in keeping blood glucose levels in a healthy range. Food is your fuel and your blood glucose levels go up after food. The goal of a meal plan is to control blood glucose levels, keep a healthy body weight and feel well. Regular planned meals are important in diabetes. Ideally, you should eat every four to five hours. A dietician is an important member of the team when it comes to deciding on a healthy eating plan.

Those with diabetes are encouraged to exercise regularly, as it helps with better management of blood sugar levels. Exercise is also very beneficial in decreasing the risk of heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the fat around the stomach, decreasing stress and anxiety and improving our general wellbeing. In other words, it is good for all of us. Muscles that are working need more glucose than those that are not. So exercise increases the amount of glucose taken out of the blood stream — thus decreasing the levels of sugar in the blood stream.

So what counts as doing exercise? Our South African guidelines suggest that moderate exercise, which would include cycling, brisk walking, continuous swimming, dancing, water aerobic or gardening, requires a minimum of 150 minutes per week. A definition of exercise is: “Activity that consists of rhythmic, repetitive and continuous movement of the same large muscle groups for at least 10 minutes at a time.”

Exercise is also very good in helping decrease stress levels and it helps us cope with a fast-paced life. So exercise is recommended for people of all ages to boost the immune system and protect against heart disease, strokes, diabetes and other major illnesses, such as cancer. Exercise has an immediate effect on your health and wellbeing and it can cost nothing.

If you have diabetes, you can’t take away the daily medications, whether it is tablets or insulin, which are very important in controlling a chronic condition. You also can’t take away the testing of your blood sugars to ensure that all the changes in your lifestyle are having the desired effect. But, hopefully, if management of the eating plan and the exercise regime become an enjoyable part of your life, the other two aspects of diabetes will become easier to deal with as well. It is important to know and understand yourself and your condition. It will make your diabetes management that much easier.

I wish all those with diabetes a happy November. And remember: “The Diabetic who knows the most, lives the longest.”


• Kate Bristow is a nursing sister with a special interest in diabetes. She is passionate about helping those with diabetes learn how to manage their condition to improve their quality of life. Contact her at 033 345 2157 or 082 406 8707.

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