Management and prevention: what you need to know about diabetes

Diabetes Educator Jennifer Richmond portion control, eating healthy foods and regular exercise can help prevent diabetes.
Diabetes Educator Jennifer Richmond portion control, eating healthy foods and regular exercise can help prevent diabetes.

Diabetes is a serious complex condition which can affect the entire body.

It requires daily self-care and if not managed well, can lead to other related health conditions.

While there is currently no cure for diabetes, you can live an enjoyable life by learning about and managing the condition.

It is really important to have regular check-ups with your health care team which can include your doctor, diabetes nurse, practice nurse, pharmacist, podiatrist, optometrist and dietitian.

As diabetes can be a 'silent' condition, sometimes people have the condition without realising as they do not have any of the signs and symptoms.

You don't have to wait till you have diabetes to start looking after your health, you can start today by making small changes.

There are different types of diabetes; all types are complex and serious. The three main types are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. There will be an in-depth look into each of these conditions future editions of the Cowra Guardian.

How does diabetes affect the body?

Food gets digested in our stomach and intestines. Nutrients are absorbed by your body and carbohydrate foods get broken down into glucose. This then causes out blood glucose level to go up.

Our pancreas then releases a hormone called insulin which helps the body move glucose from the blood into the cells and the rest of your body. If we don't have enough insulin or our insulin isn't working properly our blood glucose stays up.

If our blood glucose levels stays up a lot or all of the time it can cause short and long term diabetes related health conditions.

Carbohydrates are in many foods and will affect your blood glucose the most. Carbohydrates are foods and fluids like dairy, grains, legumes, non-dairy alternatives, fruit and starchy vegetables.

When people have diabetes their body does not always tolerate carbohydrates well and we need to be cautious about the amounts we eat.

When eating it is good to try and keep your portion of carbohydrates to under one fist full - low glycaemic index (low GI) are best.

It is best to discuss any changes to your diet with your healthcare team. Portion control is important for good health for those living with and without diabetes.

Foods that contain little carbohydrate and will not affect your blood glucose as much include meat, eggs, cheese, tofu, fish, nuts and seeds, non-starchy and leafy green vegetables.

The best drink is water but black coffee, black tea and plain mineral water are also acceptable.

What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms, making it difficult to detect. Risk factors for pre-diabetes are the same as type 2 diabetes:

  • family history
  • above the healthy weight range
  • inactive lifestyle
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • having gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • having polycystic ovary syndrome.

People who have pre-diabetes can delay and, in some cases, prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by following a healthy lifestyle:

Weight loss - If you are above the healthy weight range, losing as little as 5-10 per cent of your weight can help lower blood glucose levels and reduce your risk.

Regular physical activity - Aim to do at least 30 minutes of 'moderate intensity' physical activity (such as brisk walking or swimming) every day.

Try to include some resistance training twice a week. Always talk to your doctor before starting any new type of physical activity.

Healthy eating - Choose a wide variety of foods including fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats and low-fat dairy foods. To manage your weight, it's important to reduce your total energy (kilojoule) intake.

A dietitian can help by recommending the best food choices for weight loss.

Blood pressure and blood fats - It's important to keep these in the target range that your doctor recommends and they should be checked regularly.

Smoking - If you smoke, try to quit. If you feel you can't give up smoking on your own, ask for help - talk to your doctor or call the Quitline on 137 848.

If you have pre-diabetes, it's important to have an annual health check. By making healthy lifestyle changes, type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed.