Diabetes mellitus, also called diabetes, is a metabolic disease that raises the blood glucose (blood sugar level). Blood glucose is our chief source of energy and comes from the food we eat. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that carries sugar from blood into the cells to be stored or used for energy. Diabetes happens when the body either fails to make enough insulin or is not being able to use the insulin it makes.
According to the INDIAB Study, nearly 72.96 million cases of diabetes have been reported among the adult population of India, with high prevalence in urban areas. The prevalence is higher among those more than 50 years of age.
Most common types
- Type 2 diabetes – Chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose). This is the most common type of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes – Chronic condition where the pancreas produces little or no insulin. This becomes a problem as we need insulin every day to take the sugar from the foods we eat and turn it into energy. These patients need to inject insulin daily to stay alive.
- Prediabetes – Condition where blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes – Form of high blood sugar affecting pregnant women. In most cases, it goes away after delivery. Nevertheless, such women and their children stand a greater chance of getting diabetes later in their life.
We often hear people saying that they have “a touch of diabetes” or that their “glucose is a tad high.” These words and expressions convey the false narrative that diabetes is not a serious condition. But, that is totally incorrect. Diabetes is SERIOUS! The only good thing is that with some advice from doctors you can learn to manage it.
Let us see how you can monitor diabetes day by day and get treated without going to the hospital –
Take diabetes seriously
Being serious about diabetes can ensure your long-term wellbeing. Remember with a close to normal blood sugar (glucose) level, you will –
- Be more energetic
- Feel less exhausted and thirsty
- Have lesser urges to pass urine
- Get lesser skin or bladder infections
In addition, with normal blood sugar (glucose) level you will greatly reduce chances of getting complications of diabetes which include –
- Stroke or heart attack
- Eye problems which often result in vision difficulties or even blindness
- Nerve damage which causes pain or numbness in hands and feet
- Kidney issues often leading to kidney failure
- Teeth and gum issues
Measures you can take
Know the ABCs of diabetes
Know what type of diabetes you have and also the ABCs of diabetes which include A1C, Blood pressure, and Cholesterol.
A is for the A1C test (A-one-C also called HbA1c)
A blood test measuring your average blood sugar level over the past three months. It is dissimilar to the blood sugar checks you do each day. This test is important as you need to track the blood sugar levels over time so that they don’t get too high. Remember, high blood sugar levels can be dangerous for the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.
A1C goals will be very different if you are over 65 years of age and have had diabetes for a longer period of time. The goals might also differ in case you have other problems like heart disease, or if your blood sugar often gets too low. The A1C goal is normally below 7, but as it could be different for you, do ask your doctor about your individual goal.
B is for blood pressure
Or the force of the blood against the wall of your blood vessels. If this pressure goes too high, your heart starts working laboriously and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. It can also cause damage to your kidneys or eyes. The standard blood pressure for most people with diabetes is below 140/90. However, it could be different for you, hence, ask your doctor about your individual levels.
C is for Cholesterol in the blood
Which is of two types – LDL and HDL. LDL is called the ‘bad’ cholesterol as it can accumulate and clog the blood vessels, causing heart attack or stroke. HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol which helps remove the ‘bad’ cholesterol from blood vessels. It is important to know your cholesterol levels as the levels may differ. Those more than 40 years of age, may also need to take a statin drug for heart health.
You can consult your doctor through tele-health and learn how to manage these three indicators. This will effectively lessen the chances of having a stroke, or other diabetes related problems. The ABC goals generally vary on the period for which one has had diabetes and also how hard or easy the condition is to manage. Once you know the goals from your doctor note the numbers at regular intervals and track your progress.
Learn how to live with diabetes
Most people get overwhelmed, miserable, or irritated when living with diabetes. Even when aware of the measures you need to take to stay fit, it is troublesome to stick with the plans on a long term basis.
Here are some tips to cope with your diabetes, to eat well, and to be active –
1. Deal with the resultant stress effectively
Stress is known to increase blood sugar; hence it is highly imperative to keep your stress low. You can follow some routine exercises and habits like deep breathing, gardening, taking a walk, meditating, pursuing a hobby, or listening to music.
However, if you feel your stress is not under your control, seek immediate help from a GP or psychiatrist.
2. Eat well
It is very important to have a diabetes meal plan drafted with help from your doctor. The diet must include foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt. Eat more fibrous food like raw fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese. Make it a point to drink a lot of water and avoid juice and bottled drinks. Every time while eating a meal, fill half the plate with vegetables and fruits, a quarter with lean proteins, like chicken or tofu or vegetarian sources of protein and another quarter with whole grains.
3. Be active
The more active you are, the better you can manage your diabetes. Things you can do to stay active are – taking a 30 minute walk every day for starters and then slowly build up, doing some exercise to increase your muscle strength, making use of stretch bands, doing yoga, and gardening. You can also give push-ups a shot if you are in good fitness. A healthy weight with a proper meal plan and some activities will do you a lot of good.
4. Have a routine to follow
Make it a point to never miss your medicines even when you feel good. If you experience side effects from any medicine, immediately inform your doctor. Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling. If you notice any sore that does not go away, seek immediate medical help. Stop smoking. Keep checking blood sugar levels at regular intervals and maintain a record. Also track the blood pressure levels if advised by your doctor and keep a record of that as well. Report any sudden change in these numbers through video consult. Pay visit to your doctor at least twice a year to find and treat problems, if any.
A simple truth is that if you have diabetes you need to make healthy food choices, maintain a healthy weight, be active every day, and take your medicine religiously. It may seem tough, but like anything – if you make up your mind, plan well and stay motivated you will lead a normal life. Do it, because it’s worth it!
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