Diabetes: Living The Sweet Life

This year’s World Diabetes Day theme is ‘Healthy Living and Diabetes’.

World Diabetes Day, which is commemorated annually on Nov 14, was initiated in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes.

“Healthy Living and Diabetes” is the World Diabetes Day theme for 2014-2016.

The focus is on the importance of starting the day with a healthy breakfast to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and effectively manage all types of diabetes to avoid complications.

Healthy eating and diabetes
Eating a healthy breakfast decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by helping to control appetite and blood sugar concentrations in both adults and children.

Skipping breakfast is associated with weight gain, one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Overweight and obesity account for up to 80% of new cases of type 2 diabetes.

A healthy diet containing leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, lean meat, fish and nuts can help reduce a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and avoid complications in people with diabetes.

Diabetes pandemic

In 1985, 30 million people worldwide were thought to have diabetes.

A little over a decade later, the estimate rose to over 150 million.

Today, according to IDF figures, it exceeds 250 million.

Unless action is taken to implement effective prevention and control programmes, the total number of people with diabetes will reach a staggering 380 million by 2025.

According to the 2011 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) conducted by the Health Ministry, one in five Malaysians are diabetic, which means diabetes afflicts up to a staggering 22% of the country’s population.

Are you aware that Malaysia, a relatively small nation with a population of approximately 28 million people, is the eighth highest sugar consumer in the world?

Being in the top 10 out of 195 countries in the world (and fourth in Asia) is definitely not something we should be proud of.

The Malaysian Government is spending millions of ringgit on trying to educate the public about the dangers of sugar through campaigns and advertisements – a plea to reduce sugar intake.

Health experts are now arguing that sugar is harmful enough to be put into the same category as tobacco and alcohol. Ultimately, the excessive use of sugar is a public health crisis.

Having shared that, diabetes is not just a diet-related disease; it is a lifestyle-related disease.

Watching your diet by cutting back on your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake is definitely a great start, but having chronic, excessive stress and lack of physical activity can also sabotage your best intentions to improve your health.

Try to relax and unwind through stress reduction activities such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, or even a massage. Moving your muscles through regular exercise also plays a pivotal role in preventing diabetes.

The complications of diabetes

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing serious macro- and microvascular complications such as heart disease, stroke, end-stage renal failure, blindness and amputation.

Cardiovascular disease: This is the most common cause of death in people with diabetes. Diabetes affects the heart and blood vessels, and may thus, cause fatal complications such as coronary artery disease (leading to heart attack) and stroke.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose and other risk factors contribute to increasing the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy): This is due to damage of small blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to deteriorating kidney function, and ultimately, kidney failure.

Kidney disease is much more common in people with diabetes than in those without diabetes. Maintaining near normal levels of blood glucose and blood pressure can greatly reduce the risk of kidney disease.

Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy): Most people with diabetes will develop some form of eye disease (retinopathy), leading to vision problems or blindness.

Consistently high levels of blood glucose, together with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are the main causes of retinopathy. It can be managed through regular eye checks, and keeping glucose and lipid levels at or close to normal.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy: In diabetes, among the most commonly affected areas are the extremities, in particular, the feet. Nerve damage in these areas is called peripheral neuropathy, and can lead to numbness, tingling, pain, burning sensations and loss of feeling.

Loss of feeling is particularly dangerous and alarming as it can cause injuries to go unnoticed, leading to serious infections and possible amputations.

Statistics show that up to 70% of diabetics have nerve damage that can lead to amputation.

Are you aware that the risk of amputation is 27.7 times greater in diabetics than in those without diabetes, and that diabetics account for half of all these amputations?

Maintaining blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol at or close to normal, can help delay or prevent diabetic complications. Therefore, people with diabetes need regular monitoring.

However, with comprehensive management, a large proportion of amputations related to diabetes can be prevented.

Adhering to a healthy lifestyle encompassing a healthy low-sugar diet, regular exercise and foot examinations, as well as taking some beneficial nutritional supplements is advised.

In fact, a team of Japanese scientists have discovered that damaged nerves can be regenerated with a simple supplement known as mecobalamin, the neurologically active form of vitamin B12.

It has the ability to not only help prevent and regenerate damaged nerves, but also helps promote healthy nerves and protects against the degeneration of the nervous system.

If you have high blood sugar levels, take one capsule of mecobalamin 500mcg three times daily to help regenerate damaged nerves.

Remember to eat healthily to decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes!

Diet tips to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes

  • Choose water or unsweetened coffee or tea, instead of fruit juice, soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eat at least three servings of vegetables every day, including green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce or kale.
  • Eat up to three servings of fresh fruit every day.
  • Choose nuts, a piece of fresh fruit or sugar-free yoghurt for a snack.
  • Choose lean cuts of white meat, poultry and seafood, instead of processed meat or red meat.
  • Choose peanut butter, instead of chocolate spread or jam, to spread on bread.
  • Choose whole-grain bread, instead of white bread; brown rice instead, of white rice; and whole grain pasta, instead of refined pasta.