Weighing in on Diabetes Awareness Month

South Africa acknowledged National Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day on the 14th November. Diabetes is an issue of grave national concern, as recent estimates convey that 3.5 million South Africans are suffering from the condition and an estimated further 1.5 million of these cases go undiagnosed.

In addition, it has been estimated that a further five million South Africans are insulin resistant or ‘pre-diabetic’.

Diabetes is commonly identifies in two forms, either Type 1 diabetes (Childhood Diabetes) or Type 2 Diabetes (Insulin Resistance). The carbohydrates we consume are converted into glucose, a simple form of sugar which travels around the body in our blood. Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, is responsible for transporting glucose out of the blood, to be used as a source of energy within our cells. In the case of diabetes, insulin either is not produced effectively, or the body becomes desensitized to the insulin that is being produced. Glucose is therefore not transported into the cells and builds up to unhealthy levels in the blood. If this goes untreated and unmanaged, it may lead to blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, strokes, coronary heart disease, and other large blood vessel diseases.

Treatment for diabetes always begins with a lifestyle change, with a specific focus on exercise, a healthy eating plan and weight loss, to which tablets as well as insulin injections may be added. Weigh-Less welcomes all Type 2 diabetics, and Type 1 diabetics, who have suffered from the condition for more than five years and have their doctor’s permission to join. We acknowledge that our diabetic and insulin resistant Members need a healthy Eating Plan to balance their blood glucose levels, and their body’s response to insulin, whilst shedding the excess kilograms that may further aggravate their condition.

The Weigh-Less Best For You Plan offers an Insulin Control Formula, Profile D, for our Type 2 diabetic and insulin resistant Members, and the classification of foods into Good, Better and Best Choices. Best Choice foods are those with a low GI, and are absorbed into the blood stream at a slow and steady rate. These foods are therefore the most optimal choices in avoiding rapid spikes in blood glucose. In addition, we have introduced a new food group, namely non-essential foods. These are foods with a very high GI, and are discouraged for our insulin resistant and diabetic Members to avoid dangerous spikes in blood glucose levels.

“We have also developed a Know Your Numbers Health Tracker to assist our Members in remaining aware of their key health indicators and their associated risk of developing lifestyle diseases. We encourage you to know your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels to beat the scale and ill health,” says Founder and Chairman of Weigh-Less, Mary Holroyd.

Blood sugar levels can be effectively managed by following these guidelines:

  • Monitor: Consult your health care professional about how frequently you should be testing your blood glucose levels.
  • Medicate: If you have been prescribed medication for diabetes from a doctor, it is vital to stick to the recommended doses.
  • Stay away from salt: Salt may contribute to higher blood pressure levels. Avoid foods that are high in salt.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking further raises blood glucose levels. It is vital, however, that you be cautious of your food intake when you quit, in order to avoid spikes in blood glucose.
  • Drink in moderation: One and a half, to two drinks a day has been proven to lower your risk of diabetes by 30 percent. If you have already been diagnosed, you may need to talk with your doctor about the effects that alcohol may have on your blood glucose levels.
  • Exercise: This has been credited as the third most important factor in managing diabetes, after receiving medical attention and initiating weight loss. 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least six days a week is recommended.
  • Low GI foods: Stick to carbohydrates considered low GI, as these cause a steady and manageable rise in blood sugar.
  • Regular meals: Consume five to six small meals a day, and split up the carbohydrate serves equally between these meals to ensure carbohydrates are supplied to your blood at a constant and steady stream.
  • Fat matters: It is important to monitor your fat intake as with your diagnosis of diabetes, comes an increased risk of heart disease. Salt-water fish such as salmon and tuna are a great source of healthy fats and diabetics are encouraged to drink skim milk instead of low-fat milk, and eat lentils, chickpeas and beans in the place of red meat, chicken and cheese as often as possible.
  • Dry beans, soya, lentils and peas, please! Eat these foods on a regular basis as a part of your protein serves. They will help you balance blood sugar and fat levels.

Considering the severity of the consequences, it is imperative that we all take stock of our lifestyles and ensure that we follow a well-balanced, healthy Eating Plan combined with healthy lifestyle habits.

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