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How Can You Live A Long And Healthy Life With Diabetes?

Do you know how many people are affected by diabetes in India? According to the International Diabetes Federation, in the year 2017, there were over 72,946,400 cases of diabetes in India. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030. In this article, we will write on how to live a long and healthy life with diabetes.

What is diabetes? Diabetes is a condition which occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or when the body can't effectively use the insulin it produces. High blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia is common and leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems especially the blood vessels and nerves.

Causes Of Diabetes

To understand diabetes, you first need to understand how insulin works in the body.

What is insulin? It is a hormone which is secreted by the islet cells of the pancreas into the bloodstream. The insulin then circulates, thereby enabling sugar to enter your cells and lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. When there is an insufficiency in the amount of insulin produced or the body can't use insulin properly, it causes diabetes.

There are four types of diabetes - type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin. The body breaks down the carbohydrates into blood glucose which provides you with energy and the hormone insulin is needed by the body to get glucose from the bloodstream into the body's cells. Type 1 diabetes is said to reduce the life expectancy by at least 20 years, according to Diabetes UK.
  • In the case of type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to use insulin properly which is termed as insulin resistance. The pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for it but, over time, it can't make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels. According to Diabetes UK, type 2 diabetes roughly reduce the life expectancy by 10 years.
  • People with type 2 diabetes usually have prediabetes and their blood glucose levels are higher than normal levels. In a prediabetes stage, some damage to the circulatory system and the heart have already occurred.
  • Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and vanishes after giving birth. This type of diabetes can occur at any stage of the pregnancy.

Common Symptoms Of Diabetes

  • Urinating frequently
  • Intense hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Frequently feeling thirsty
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased fatigue
  • Wounds and cuts that don't heal quickly
  • Skin and yeast infections
  • Gum disease
  • Numbness and tingling in your feet and hands
  • Sexual dysfunction among men

What Are The Common Consequences Of Diabetes?

Adults who are suffering from diabetes have twice the increased risk of heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure combined with lower blood flow, nerve damage in the feet which increases the chances of foot ulcers, and infections. Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness.

4 Steps To Live A Long And Healthy Life With Diabetes

1. Learn about diabetes

You should first understand what diabetes is and its three types i.e., type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. You have to understand your body well and the way it functions. This will help you to manage your diabetes day by day. Speak to your doctor about how you can take the best care of yourself.

How to learn more about diabetes:

  • Take classes to learn more about living with diabetes by consulting with your healthcare team.
  • Join a support group to get peer support for managing your diabetes.
  • You can also check relevant diabetes-related sources like the American Diabetes Association, International Diabetes Federation, Diabetic Association of India and so on to learn about diabetes.

What you should do?

Learning about diabetes and taking care of yourself will make you feel good today and in the future. It will help your body will get more energy, you will be less tired and thirsty, urinate less, wounds heal better, have fewer skin and bladder infections, lower the risk of heart attack or stroke, reduces eye problems, numbness in the hands and feet, teeth and gum problems, and kidney problems.

2. Know about your diabetes ABCs

Speak to your health care professional about how to manage your diabetes ABC (A1C, Blood pressure and Cholesterol). This will lower the chances of getting a stroke, heart attack or other diabetes problems.

A stands for A1C test, a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months which is different from the regular blood sugar checks. It is necessary and important to keep a tab on your blood sugar levels so that it doesn't increase. An increase in blood sugar levels can harm your blood vessels, heart, feet, kidneys and eyes.

B stands for blood pressure which refers to the pressure of circulating blood on the walls of the blood vessels. It is important for a diabetic person to check his or her blood pressure as a rise in blood pressure causes a heart attack and stroke.

C stands for cholesterol which is of two types LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). The LDL (bad) cholesterol clogs your blood vessels which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

HDL (good) cholesterol helps to eliminate the bad cholesterol from the blood vessels.

What you should do?

Ask your health care professional what your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are and what should be the average number. The ABC goal will depend on what kind of health problems you have had, how long you have had diabetes and how difficult diabetes is to manage.

3. Learn how to stay healthy with diabetes

People who are living with diabetes should know the steps to take to stay healthy, but somehow find it difficult to stick to their health plan.

Here're some ways to cope with diabetes:

  • Stress raises blood sugar levels, so try deep-breathing exercises, walking and meditation to lower your stress levels.
  • It's common to feel depressed when you have diabetes, ask for help immediately from a mental health counsellor, close friends or family members who will listen to your concerns that will further help you feel better.
  • Take medications prescribed for diabetes.
  • Check your feet every day for blisters, red spots, swelling and cuts. If your sores aren't healing consult your doctor.
  • Keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy by brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day.
  • Stop smoking and keep track of your blood sugar levels.

How to eat well:

  • Make a diabetes meal plan with help from your doctor.
  • Consume foods that are rich in fibre like breads, crackers, whole grain cereals, rice, etc.
  • Choose foods that are low in calories, trans fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar.
  • Drink plenty of water instead of juices.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat or skimmed milk and cheese.
  • Watch your portion size by filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with whole grains like brown rice and one quarter with lean protein like chicken without skin or beans.

How to keep yourself active?

  • Set a goal for yourself by participating in activities that will help you stay active. Start by walking for 10 minutes thrice a day.
  • Increase your muscle strength by doing yoga, and heavy gardening twice a week.
  • Maintain a proper weight with the help of your meal plan.

What you should do?

Ask your doctor about more ways to be active and when to test your blood sugar levels. Discuss how your diabetes meal plan is working for you whenever you visit your doctor.

4. Routine care is required to stay healthy

Each time when you visit your doctor, make sure to have your blood pressure checked, foot checked, weight checked, and also review your self-care plan. Also ensure that you have a cholesterol test, dental check-up, eye check-up, flu shot and urine and blood test to check for kidney problems.

What you should do?

Ask your doctor if there are other tests that are required and what do the results mean whether they are positive or negative.

How Can Diabetes Be Prevented?

A simple change in your lifestyle habits can help in the prevention of diabetes.

1. Making healthier food choices by choosing foods that are low in refined carbohydrates and incorporating more vegetables, whole fruits, lean meats, beans and whole grains will allow you to continue a healthy diet.

2. Exercising regularly such as cycling or jogging will make your heart work better.

3. Take your medications on time.

4. Eat regularly and never miss your meals. Frequent consumption of meals and snacks at regular intervals can keep your blood sugar levels stable.

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