Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in the world. It occurs when your body struggles to process glucose properly, causing high blood glucose (also called high blood sugar or hyperglycaemia). Left untreated, this can seriously damage various organs and raise your risk of heart disease.
Symptoms of diabetes may include frequent urination, increased hunger or thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, fatigue, skin problems, slow-healing sores and frequent infections.
The main types of diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune condition that usually happens early in life (infancy or childhood), while Type 2 generally develops later (during adulthood). Type 2 is often associated with poor lifestyle choices. Gestational diabetes involves elevated blood glucose levels during pregnancy. These usually return to normal once the baby is born.
How is it diagnosed?
Screening tests are helpful as a preventative method to identify the early stage of diabetes; “pre-diabetes”. If your sugar level is higher than it’s supposed to be, but not in a diabetes range, you have pre-diabetes. This means you’re at risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetes is diagnosed by measuring the levels of glucose in your blood. The main test for diabetes is called the glycated haemoglobin test (HbA1C test). This test doesn’t require fasting and it checks your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It aims to measure the percentage of blood sugar that’s attached to your haemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in your red blood cells).
A fasting blood sugar test may be used if the HbA1c test isn’t available.
- A fasting blood sugar level less than 100mg/dL (5.6mmol/L) is normal.
- A fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9mmol/L) is seen as pre-diabetes.
- A blood sugar measurement of 126mg/dL (7mmol/L) or higher on two tests means you have diabetes.
Prevention is better than cure
Make some lifestyle changes to lower your risk.
Shed some kilos
If you’re overweight, you’re more at risk of developing diabetes or pre-diabetes. Aim to lose at least 10 percent of your body weight. Talk to a dietician and fitness instructor to help you meet your goals.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up and this is ideal for preventing diabetes. Do workouts like swimming, cycling or brisk walking. Talk to your doctor before trying any new exercises or if you’re just getting started.
Boost your nutrition
Bulk up your diet with nutritious foods like low-fat protein, wholegrains and vegetables. Limit your calories with smaller portions (e.g. use a smaller plate). Eat less sugar and starchy carbs like bread, pasta and potatoes. Include fibre-rich foods as they help you to stay fuller for longer.