Diabetes; what do you need to know?

As more people urbanise to city-states and metropolitan areas they become vulnerable to lifestyle changes, consisting of sedentary behaviours and unhealthy diets of fast foods and processed foods. Consequently, this change in environments and behaviour has a massive impact on the quality of life and on people’s optimal health.  Poor health behaviour can increase one’s chances of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes.


The 14th of November, among it being the month of raising awareness on men’s health issues (#Movember) is widely celebrated as world diabetes day, with the aim of raising awareness of the chronic condition and help combat the increasing rate of diabetes across the world.


Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, describes a group of metabolic diseases characterised by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that result either because of inadequate insulin production or the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin or both. Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, however, when you have diabetes the pancreas (an organ that lies near the stomach) does not produce enough insulin or cannot use its own insulin as required. As such, the blood contains very high blood sugar levels that circulate around the body and destroys blood vessels and nerves in some parts of the body.


Health24 postulates that about three and a half million South Africans (6% of the population) suffer from diabetes and there are much more who are undiagnosed. As such diabetes is counted among the top three leading causes of natural deaths in 2014, moving from the third position in 2014 to second in 2015. Moreover, according to the International Diabetes Federation, South Africa is one of the 32 countries of the IDF African region. 415 million people have diabetes in the world and more than 14 million people in the AFR Region; it is estimated that by 2040 this figure will more than double. There were 2.28 million cases of diabetes in South Africa in 2015.


Types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

A condition where the body stops producing insulin.

Type2 diabetes

A condition that develops over time where the body is unable to use insulin properly

Gestational diabetes

Refers to a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.


Signs and symptoms of diabetes

Signs and symptoms of diabetes vary, depending on the type of diabetes that you might have. Type2 diabetes develops more gradually and often occurs unnoticed, symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop more quickly over a short period, because of elevated sugar levels. There are however common symptoms of diabetes and they include, frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, extreme hunger, very dry skin, sores that are slow to heal and blurred eye vision.


How to control diabetes-Lifestyle changes–diet plan and medication

While there are several factors that influence the development of type2 diabetes, it is evident that the most influential are lifestyle behaviours, such as unhealthy diet characterised with high consumption of sugary foods, salt and fats, and physical inactivity.


As the population is rapidly growing, adopting and modifying unhealthy behaviours could be beneficial in preventing and managing type2 diabetes as type 1 cannot be preventable, such changes will include taking blood glucose-lowering medications  following  a healthy balanced meal plan  engaging in an active lifestyle with regular exercise,  cutting down on sugar as recommended by World Health Organisation.



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