HEALTHY CONVERSATIONS: Today is World Diabetes Day!


Today is World Diabetes Day and November is Diabetes Awareness Month. All around the world, people are celebrating World Diabetes Day on November 14 and at the same time, they’re raising awareness about this condition and what can be done to manage it.

As you age, you have more chance of becoming diabetic. Middle-aged and older adults who might need aged care are at the highest risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Another high risk factor is the presence of diabetes in any of your family. If you’re concerned, simply ask your doctor about it and you can do the tests to find out if you have it.

Diabetes is no walk in the park but it can be managed. As they say at Diabetes Australia – Let’s face it – diabetes can be tough. It is like a job you can’t quit. There are no days off. Not even Christmas.

The great thing is there’s a whole community out there which can support you and help you manage this condition. Take a look around the Diabetes Australia site and you’ll find all the information you need.

If you know you have diabetes and you’d like some help with your diet, you can book in for a chat with our Nutritionist, Wendy Middleton here.

Exactly what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism and it occurs when the pancreas does not secrete enough insulin or if the cells of the body become resistant to insulin. If you become insulin resistant, the blood glucose cannot get into the cells, which can then lead to serious complications. Diabetes is characterised by poor glucose control and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, renal disease and other health complications.

If you have diabetes you usually have symptoms such as increased urination, increased thirst and increased hunger. The condition is diagnosed via blood tests which check and measure your glucose and insulin levels and glycated haemoglobin.

There are two types of diabetes – Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes – so we need to look at how to manage these separately.

Managing Type 1 diabetes

If you have Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin which is vital for converting glucose into energy. Type 1 diabetes is a life threatening condition which needs to be closely managed with daily care including:

•    Insulin replacement via insulin injections or use of an insulin pump.

•    Monitoring of blood glucose levels regularly each day.

•    Keeping to a strict healthy diet and eating plan.

•    Exercising regularly.

Managing Type 2 diabetes

If you have Type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is still working but not as well as it should be. Because of this your body is building insulin resistance and won’t be able to convert glucose into energy which will leave too much glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes can often be managed by a healthy diet, regular exercise and monitoring your blood glucose levels because:

•    A healthy diet will help to keep your blood glucose levels at the right level.

•    Regular exercise will help the insulin work more effectively, lowering your blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.

•    Regular blood glucose monitoring tests will show whether these changes to your lifestyle are helping to manage blood glucose levels or whether you need to do more.

At times, a healthy diet and exercise are not enough to keep a person’s blood glucose levels down. Because Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, often a person’s insulin will become more resistant and the pancreas less effective at converting glucose into energy. So to help the pancreas achieve this effectively, people with Type 2 diabetes are often prescribed tablets to manage their blood glucose levels.

Eventually, some people may find they need to start taking insulin to manage blood glucose levels. This is when your body is no longer producing enough insulin of its own.

What should your diet consist of?

Your diet should consist of mostly fresh fruit, vegetables and fibre, combined with a portion of lean protein at each meal. The best fibre you can eat include oat bran, nuts, psyllium seed husks, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pears, apples and vegetables. These foods slow down digestion and absorption, preventing rapid glycaemic rises. At least 35 grams of fibre per day is recommended.

Foods high in glycaemic index such as processed and refined foods, foods high in sugar (in any form), alcohol, caffeine and soft drinks (especially diet forms) should be avoided.

Legumes, onions and garlic are particularly useful and should be included regularly.

Why is exercise important?

Studies have shown that if those with diabetes exercise regularly they can avoid most diabetic medications and reverse their blood sugar fluctuations. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine,the risk of diabetes was reduced by 58 per cent in the intervention group. The reduction in the incidence of diabetes was directly associated with changes in lifestyle enabling authors to conclude that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. All types of Exercise physiology including physiotherapy and hydrotherapy would also be helpful.

And Magnesium?

Magnesium deficiency, which is often seen with a Western diet, has been found to be related to poor glycaemic control and impairment of insulin secretion. Insulin resistance in return can interfere with the uptake of Magnesium by the cells, thus creating a vicious circle.

It’s recommended that those with diabetes eat foods high in Magnesium including leafy, green vegetables, wholegrains and nuts. Supplements should also be taken as this has been seen to improve the condition for many people.