Everything You Need To Know About Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes, the word that directly puts breads & sweets into the “NO ZONE”. Managing diabetes can be challenging, but understanding your condition and connecting with the right people for guidance can make all the difference. Here’s everything you need to know about Diabetes!

What is diabetes and how does it affect a person?

When we eat and digest carbohydrates like bread, rice, and pasta, the body breaks them down into glucose. For glucose to move from the bloodstream into the cells, it needs the help of a “key”. This key is a hormone produced by the pancreas called insulin. 

Diabetes occurs when the body has trouble moving glucose from the bloodstream into the cells because: 1) the pancreas is not making any or enough insulin, or 2) the pancreas is making enough insulin, but the body is not responding to it as it should. In both cases, the result is a build-up of glucose in the blood and a lack of it in the cells.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that can add significant emotional and financial burdens and impact the quality of life of the affected individual on many different levels. From a health perspective, uncontrolled diabetes can cause significant damage to many parts of the body, including the eyes, heart, feet, nerves, and kidneys. Diabetes can also cause high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.

Who should get checked for diabetes, how, and how often?

Type 2 diabetes is one of the greatest health challenges of our time, with millions of people currently living with the condition in the UAE and nearly 40% of them being unaware of it. It is important for people who are at higher risk to perform regular blood sugar balance checks. People at higher risk are those who are over 35 years of age, have a sedentary lifestyle, with a waist circumference greater than 100cm, a family history of type 2 diabetes, and those who are experiencing symptoms like blurred vision or thirst.

The HbA1c test is the simplest way to check for diabetes and does not require fasting. The HbA1c test takes a snapshot of the blood sugar levels over the last three months. As for the frequency of testing, it depends on which category the individual fell into in the first test.

  • Those who get an HbA1C level in the normal range (<5.6%) can get checked every 3 years while making sure to follow a healthy lifestyle and monitor for any symptoms especially if they fall in the high-risk category.
  • Those who get an HbA1C level in the pre-diabetic range (5.7%-6.4%) are advised to repeat the test once a year to avoid an upward pattern in blood sugar levels towards diabetes while making necessary changes to their diet and lifestyle.
  • For individuals with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, it is advised to check HbA1C levels every three to six months to monitor the glycemic control and make sure that the treatment is working well. 

How should a person monitor diabetes and keep it under control?

Diabetes can be largely prevented and controlled by leading a healthier and a more active lifestyle. What is referred to as the Mediterranean diet has been shown to positively and significantly impact diabetes outcomes. The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet in many countries of the region and is widely recognized as one of the healthiest dietary patterns available. The Mediterranean diet majorly consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, extra virgin olive oil, fish, red wine, and other minimally processed foods, which are all rich sources of unsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates, and fibres. Individuals with diabetes are also advised to plan and control their meal frequency especially if on medication. Working with an experienced health coach or nutrition expert has also been shown to lead to much better outcomes. Regular blood check-ups and self-management tools like the standard pin prick test kits and wearable technology are essential to evaluate the effectiveness of the lifestyle changes and to keep individuals engaged in their care. Ultimately, we advise people to eat real food. If it comes in a box or a packet, then it’s best avoided. If it’s baked or fried, then give it a swerve. If it’s fizzy and in a tin, then better avoid it and reach for water instead. For everyone who is struggling to exercise, we recommend walking or simply standing up a little more at work. It’s not all about going to the gym and one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to lifestyle advice. Most importantly if you’re struggling then reach out for help.