Diabetes is one of the most common diseases amongst South Africans. In fact according to Professor Larry Distiller, founder of the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology, there are more than 4 million adults with diabetes in South Africa. That's nearly 10% of the country!
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce enough of the blood-glucose-lowering hormone insulin, or is unable to use insulin effectively. The main function of insulin is to enable blood glucose to enter cells where it is used for energy. Therefore, when the effect of insulin is reduced or absent, blood glucose increases abnormally and muscles, other tissues, and in severe cases, the brain, are deprived of this energy source.
Read more: The signs of diabetes in children
There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 diabetes has to be treated with insulin
Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person’s own immune system damages their insulin-producing cells, so that they no longer produce enough insulin for the needs of their body. Although it may occur at any age, type 1 diabetes most commonly begins in childhood or adolescence. People with type 1 diabetes have to be treated with multiple daily injections of insulin, without which they will not survive.
Type 2 diabetes is a common lifestyle disease
Approximately 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body is resistant to the action of insulin and there is progressive decline in the ability to make insulin. This form of diabetes, previously known as late-onset diabetes, usually manifests later in life and it is commonly, but not always, associated with being overweight or obese.
Initially type 2 diabetes can be managed with a foundation of healthy eating, increased physical activity, weight loss and a simple regimen of oral medication. Ultimately though, most people with type 2 diabetes will require additional medications and eventually the addition of insulin therapy to control their blood glucose.
So if your child is diagnosed with diabetes, chances are that it's Type 1. They key to avoiding Type 2 diabetes is developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your whole family. Here are some things that you can do to prevent them from getting it later in life.
Hold the salt: Sodium may contribute to higher blood pressure levels. Look out for the foods that are high in salt to keep your blood pressure normalised.
Stay active: This has been credited as the third most important factor in managing diabetes, after receiving medical attention and initiating weight loss. Exercise improves your body’s ability to respond to insulin and will help manage your increased risk of heart disease.
Drink more water: Cut down on sugary drinks and juices and try to introduce a water bottle. Keep fizzy drinks and juices for treats or special occasions.
In celebration of World Diabetes Day on Saturday, 14 November, the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) will be hosting an educational and informative programme at the Norwood shopping centre in Johannesburg from 09h00. Free screening to assess diabetes risk will be available and diabetes professionals will be on hand to explain the results and answer any questions.