Beating diabetes – Tips you must know!

Singapore has declared a ‘war on diabetes’ as it has become a growing concern in recent years. However, people with diabetes, or diabetics for short, can live perfectly normal and fulfilling lives, with the help of some discipline and self-control. Read on to find out how to better manage the condition, because your life is what you make of it!

Know the ABCs of your Dia-be-tes!

HbA1c

Although it technically doesn’t begin with an ‘A’, the HbA1c is an important blood test that shows what your average blood glucose has been over the last 3 months. And that is of extreme importance for diabetics to note! Depending on your condition, your target might vary, but most people with diabetes aim for an A1c level below 7%.

Blood Pressure

Not just for people with diabetes, maintaining an optimal blood pressure is important for everyone!  High blood pressure (hypertension) puts you at higher risk for kidney disease, heart attack and stroke. A good gauge for high blood pressure is around 140/90 mmHg.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is found in the blood, and there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ variations of it.  LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or ‘bad’ cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels, which can cause a heart attack or a stroke. HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or ‘good’ cholesterol on the other hand, counteracts the ‘bad’ by removikidneg cholesterol from your blood vessels back into the liver which then removes it from the body. Testing is done to measure the level of LDL, and the aim is to get 2.6 mmol/L or lower.

Now that you know the ABCs, its time you know the 1,2,3s! Your ABC targets will depend on

  1. Your age

  2. The severity of your diabetes

  3. Other health issues you might have

Pro-tip from SingHealth: Make use of the Health Champ tracker on our very own Health Buddy app to track your ABCs!

What happens to a diabetic foodie?

Contrary to popular belief, people with diabetes CAN have their cake and eat it too! The occasional sweet or dessert is OK as long as it is part of a balanced diet. So how do you know when or what to eat? Check with your diabetes care team that consists of your primary doctor and key members like a dietician, who can advise you on a balanced diet and help you with meal plans that includes the occasional sweet item. Hurray!

7 Quick tips to help you with your meal choices

  1. Count your carbs and try not to exceed the required amount of carbohydrates for the day.

  2. Make small and progressive changes like switching to brown rice and wholegrains.

  3. Reduce your fat intake, so you can maintain/reach the ideal BMI. You will not only LOOK better, you will FEEL better as well!

  4. Pay attention to the method of cooking as it will affect the glycaemic index (GI) of food.

  5. For natural foods like fruit, the ripeness also plays a part in determining the GI.

  6. Food labels are there for a reason, read them! Factor in the serving size and look out for the total carbohydrates, calories, saturated and trans fats and sodium. Look out for foods with fibre >4g, and choose monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats over saturated/trans fat for a healthier meal.

  7. Try to avoid alcohol, but if you must, limit yourself to 1 drink a day for the ladies, and 2 drinks a day for the gentlemen!

You’ve got to move it move it!

Exercise is a key component to a diabetic’s regime, as physical activity increases the body’s cells sensitivity to insulin, which increases the efficacy of insulin and helps in transforming glucose into energy. Separately, body cells can also remove glucose from your blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise. 

Exercise has the potential to consistently lower your blood glucose levels and eventually lower HbA1c. This may result in you requiring fewer diabetes medications or less insulin. Aren’t you more excited about that brisk walk in the park now?

Take it easy with about 150mins of total activity in a week, or 5 sessions of 30 mins each. Alternate between aerobic exercises and resistance strength training for better effect.

Diabetes leads to a higher risk of other medical conditions

Diabetics suffer from an increased risk of heart disease and blood vessel issues, which can be quite serious. Eye problems and blindness are also commonly related to diabetes, in addition to poor wound healing and infections of various sorts. So if you are a person with living with diabetes, do work in hand-in-hand with your medical care team to keep the condition in check.

Get off on the right FOOT

For people with diabetes, foot care is especially important. Because there might be reduced sensation and blood flow to the feet, wounds and complications might occur. So though your feet are out of sight most of the time, don’t let it be out of mind!

Here are our expert tips for foot hygiene

  1. Check your feet daily! Look out for cuts, cracked skin, blisters, wounds, hard skin or corns, fungal infection, whitish skin between the toes or discolouration.

  2. File built-up skin or hard corn, and moisturise. This will help the feet stay sensitive.

  3. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slipper as these expose the feet to more environmental risks. Choose shoes with good support and fit.

  4. Cut your toenails straight across and avoid trimming it too short.

  5. Avoid exposing the feet to high/low temperatures like hot soaks, ice packs or hairdryers. The decreased sensitivity in the feet might lead to burns or ice burns.

Managing sick days

Sometimes despite your best efforts, you will still feel under the weather. Hey, even doctors and nurses get sick sometimes! That is why it is important for you to be prepared and know what to do when that happens.

Have medicines in stock, knowing what emergency number to call, having a loved one on hand to help at anytime - these are just some examples of what you can plan ahead for. If you are feeling unwell, stay hydrated, rest, monitor your blood glucose and let someone know that you are unwell. Talk to your doctor to come up with a sick day plan, they might give some valuable suggestions.

No man is an island, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Diabetes might have no cure, but you can still make the best out of the situation and lead a normal life. Just look at the accomplishments of acclaimed actor Tom Hanks, award-winning author Anne Rice, or former British Prime Minister Theresa May. They didn’t let diabetes get in the way of their lives and neither should you!

Because #healthiswealth #healthforgood

Ref: K21

Check out other articles on diabetes:

HYPER-glycaemia (High Blood Glucose): First Signs

HYPER-glycaemia (High Blood Glucose): What to Do 

HYPO-glycaemia (Low Blood Glucose): Warning Signs and Symptoms

HYPO-glycaemia (Low Blood Glucose) and Driving Safely

Travelling with Diabetes: Tips Before You Go