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The Fiji Doctor

7 Lifestyle Changes for People with Diabetes

In a previous post I discussed about Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, its causes and symptoms. In this one I’ll talk about the complications of diabetes and important steps needed to be taken to control it, thus delaying the complications as much as possible. As discussed previously, you have diabetes if your fasting sugar is greater than and equal to seven and your non-fasting sugar is greater than eleven.

If a person has been diagnosed (told by his/her doctor) with diabetes and still refuses to accept it and doesn’t necessary changes to his lifestyle, slowly but surely, the disease will damage the blood vessels in the body, the eyes and the peripheral nerves. Initially the person might not feel any-thing externally but with time complications will set in. Moreover, if diabetes is not controlled, after few years of diagnosis the patient might have difficulty with vision as the excess sugar in the body would have coated the lens in his eye and started destroying the blood vessels that supply the eye.

The excess sugar will also start coating the nerves in the peripheries (hands and feet) and thus the person will start having a burning sensation, followed by numbness. Because of this, the patient will not be aware of cuts and scratches which could in turn develop into major infections. The excess sugar also coats and damages the blood vessels in the whole body, thus the kidneys will start failing, and the person may get a heart attack or a stroke.

Another complication is that the immune system gets depressed, so it’s easy to acquire diseases and cuts and wounds will not heal so easily. Furthermore, decreased blood supply to the peripheries complicate healing more, leading to more serious infections and finally, unfortunately, the very real possibility of amputations.

Once you have been diagnosed with diabetes, the first step is acceptance. The patient needs to accept the fact that he/she has acquired a disease that will be with him or her for life. Once the patient has done that, he/she can take steps to control it, delay the complications of diabetes for as long as possible, and have better quality of life. To keep diabetes under control, the patient firstly needs to make lifestyle changes. Along with exercise at least three times in a week, a healthier diet is a must.

I’ve listed 7 lifestyle and diet changes those with diabetes need to make:

  1. No intake of refined sugars. So stop taking sugar with your tea or coffee and stop eating sweets, cake, ice-cream and sweet carbonated drinks.
  2. Decrease the amount of food that one takes at one meal time. A diabetic person can eat six times in a day but the quantity of food has to be small, so that it is easier for the body to produce enough insulin at one time to normalise the sugar level.
  3. Decrease the amount of fat in the diet, so remove all visible fat from meat before cooking. Red meats like mutton and beef have a lot fatso please avoid this. Buy oil that is cholesterol free and use margarine instead of butter. Avoid ghee. Avoid take-outs as these foods have a lot of fat.
  4. Use non-stick pots for cooking thus less oil is required in cooking and eat more of baked and grilled foods instead of fried.
  5. Decrease starch in the diet, so wholemeal roti and bread is better than rice cooked in the rice cooker. If consuming rice, eat brown rice, and boil it on the stove and discard the starchy water.
  6. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Avoid fruits which are sweet like mangoes, pawpaw and banana. Eat more of fruits like pear, apple and rock melon.
  7. The next step in controlling diabetes is attending regular Diabetic Clinics at your nearest hospital, health centre or your private doctor. Please do listen to your doctor and nurse; always be compliant with your medications. Because you will not know if your sugar is well under control unless you get regular and proper feedback from your doctor. Once you start attending regular clinics, you and your doctor can come up with schedule for you to have annual or six-monthly blood tests, eye check-ups and foot clinics. Only when you attend proper clinics can your doctor help you prevent you from getting the complications of diabetes.

The reality is once acquired diabetes, it will eventually kill you. But hey everybody has to die one day, right? However, the quality of life you want to live before you die is well within your control.

Think about it this way: If you’re diabetic, you have one of the two options:

Option A - taking a few meds, eating a little less and working out a little more

Option B - going blind, unable to walk without support as your legs are amputated, unable to drink enough water no matter how thirsty you are, or simply die at a young age because of a heart attack or stroke and not being able to be with the ones you love.

I think the choice is pretty obvious.