You Can Fight Diabetes With Healthy Living

Like fuel to a car tank, so is food to our stomachs. But fuel would be of no use if car keys to ignite the engine were missing.

For bodies, insulin is the key that ignites our energy through converting blood sugar into energy. But when you start experiencing frequent thirst, wounds that take long to heal, blurry vision, increased frequency of urination, fatigue and sleepiness, it is probably time to check your insulin.

Chances are, it is not okay and this may result into you getting diabetes mellitus, a condition characterised by an elevation of blood sugar above the normal 7mmoll (126mgdl). Dr David Lumu, a diabetologist at Mengo hospital and president of Uganda Diabetes Association, says one does not have to present with all the above symptoms before a diagnosis of diabetes is made.

In some people, he notes, these symptoms may be absent, slight or develop so slowly that the diagnosis may not be suspected for months or years, leading to damage of different organs in the body. However, proper dieting and daily physical exercise may be the magical pills needed to nip diabetes in the bud.

These recommendations are in line with this year’s World Diabetes day theme, ‘Healthy Living And Diabetes’. The celebrations are on Friday (November 14).

Dr Lumu answered The Observer’s questions about this lifestyle disease.

What are the nutrition recommendations for people living with diabetes?

There is no special diet for diabetic people. However, we recommend the following:

Have at least three of these four key food groups at each meal.

Carbohydrates (starch foods) such as matooke, cassava, rice, yams, balugu, sweat potatoes, irish potatoes, posho and kalo. For katogo, take two fingers of matooke if big or three when they are small. But the correct portions will be determined by your blood sugar response to these foods.

Proteins such as peas, groundnuts, fish, silverfish (mukene) and mutton. Eggs should be taken once a week.Fish should be the size of the palm of your hand.

Milk should be low-fat, i.e. skimmed (cream removed). You should not take more than 250 ml (half tumpeco).

Take one to two fruit portions per day and these should be about the size of your fist. Do not squeeze or blend fruits. We recommend you eat them whole. Limit fruit juices. Remember, excessive fruit juices can cause rise in one’s blood sugar and can also cause the liver to fatten.

Also, we recommend that you include high-fibre foods such as whole grain breads (brown bread) and whole grain cereals.

What foods should be avoided?

One ought to limit or avoid the intake of soda, chocolate, alcohol, honey, candies, bottled or canned juices such as Splash, and sugar. Also, beware of the “no sugar added” notion in supermarket juices. These contain hidden calories that can fatten you and your liver, making one’s diabetes difficult to control.

Make lower fat choices by cutting all the fat from the meat and roasting it to melt away residue fat. Do not add animal fat such as Kimbo, butter, or Cowboy while cooking.

What are the risk factors associated with the disease?

They include physical inactivity, obesity, unhealthy fatty diets, poor nutrition during pregnancy and a history of high blood glucose during pregnancy.

Others are: increasing age (above 40), history of delivering a baby of four kilogrammes and above and a history of diabetes in the family.

How many people are estimated to be suffering from diabetes in Uganda?

The national survey on diabetes and other non-communicable diseases has just been concluded. Data is being analysed. The correct statistics will be released before the year ends.

Is Uganda seeing an increasing trend in the number of people acquiring diabetes?

Yes, there is a rising trend in the number of people with diabetes due to increasing number of people taking unhealthy foods such as sausages and fatty meat, excessive alcohol intake, smoking and lack of physical activity. Many people prefer using boda bodas to walking and when they walk, they do it very slowly to have any meaningful effects.

All these lead to obesity that is a mover of diabetes, hypertension and high blood fats (cholesterol).

What is the cost of treating diabetes?

It depends on where one goes. It is free in government-owned hospitals. But in private hospitals and clinics, it ranges from Shs 100,000 to Shs 300,000. What makes the cost exorbitant are the tests done for the complications and the medicines. It is not unusual to have a diabetic having high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, kidney disease, nerve disease, all of which require treatment, thus making treatment expensive.

At the moment it may be difficult to state what the government actually spends on each diabetic. But available data notes that East African countries still spend less than $50 per year on each diabetic person compared to affluent countries that spend several thousand dollars per diabetic person per year.

How is diabetes treated?

Presently there is no cure for diabetes, although a lot of research is ongoing. When one is diabetic, he has to be treated for life. Generally, management of diabetes hinges on dietary modification, exercise, health education, insulin-boosting drugs and self-monitoring of blood sugar levels.

But it is imperative to note that management of diabetes doesn’t hinge on sugar control alone but [also] control of high blood pressure and blood fats (cholesterol).

Are there any support groups or toll-free lines Ugandans may access?

There are some support groups for people living with diabetes in Uganda namely Uganda Diabetes Association (UDA), Diabetes Uganda and Sugar Cubes. UDA offices are on Martin road, plot 55B and we are starting a diabetes help line next year.

Source : The Observer

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