Living With Type 2 Diabetes: Here’s What You Need To Know

Dr. Kiran Kumar Chair, Medicine Department, Head of Internal Medicine Division, Specialist Internal Medicine at Thumbay University Hospital, shares information on how to manage the disease

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Published: Mon 14 Nov 2022, 10:35 AM

Diabetes can be a life-altering disease, and therefore, requires one to make lifestyle and diet changes. The chronic condition occurs when the pancreas do not secrete enough insulin or when the cells of the body become resistant to insulin. In both the cases, blood sugar cannot be utilised by the cells leading to increased levels, which then leads to serious complications. That being said, there are several factors a diabetic must watch-out to ensure their blood sugar levels are always under control.

The theme for World Diabetes Day 2022-23 is ‘access to diabetes care’. This translates to access to the physician/endocrinologist, the dietician, other sub specialties, lab facilities and to medicines. At Thumbay University Hospital, we are well equipped to provide tailored holistic care that diabetic patients need.

From the patient’s perspective, it’s imperative to keep track of chronic disorders, multiple comorbidities, complications and medication, and prioritise regular screening to effectively maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Diabetics should follow a few precautions to avoid any major fluctuations in blood sugar levels. This includes diet modifications, increase in physical activity and weight control so as to control their diabetes and prevent complications.

If a patient has recently been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, it’s vital for them to understand that type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease and managing it soon after diagnosis (or before) will pay off now and in the long term. It is a serious illness that demands attention and ignoring it may not seem to have significant short-term consequences (high blood glucose levels are not painful), but over time, elevated glucose levels can cause damage to blood vessels, nervous system, eyes, heart, and kidneys.

Hence, managing the blood glucose levels, along with other health risk factors (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and habit such as smoking etc), is essential for preventing these complications. Losing weight and keeping it off can help in glucose control as well as offer other clinical benefits. Studies have shown that weight loss in the range of 10-15 kg in early stages of diabetes can in fact lead to diabetes remission (blood sugar control without medicines). Better diabetes management will not only help in preventing the above complications, it will also benefit in maintaining the mood and energy levels of a patient, which are adversely affected when the glucose levels are high. Also, food has a major role to play in maintaining blood glucose and weight. Therefore, optimising mealtime, making informed food choices, and exercising portion control can contribute positively in blood glucose management.

Regular screening is the way forward

Check-ups are essentially the most important factor in diabetes management. The only way a patient can keep track of their blood glucose level at any given time is by testing it. Regular testing will help them identify high and low levels before serious conditions develop. When testing is performed on a regular basis, it helps in assessing how well a patient is balancing their medical therapy, meal planning, and exercises, to manage diabetes. These test results also provide valuable information for the doctor to help make adjustments to your overall medication plan.

Simple sugar checks can be done at home using a glucometer, while advanced checks are done at health centres. Periodic visits to your Heath care provider are necessary every three to six months depending on patient blood sugar control and other associated comorbidities. This involves evaluation and discussion regarding blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, target organs such as kidneys, eyes, heart, and nerves and interventions on lifestyle, diet and habits (smoking cessation etc). Early detection, prevention, and treatment are the keys to minimising diabetic complications. Hence, at Thumbay University Hospital, the team works with the patient to customise their diabetes care as per their schedules, while also providing personal goals and targets. Although, diabetes requires constant management, but with the advice and assistance of expert doctors it’s definitely manageable disease.

Food choices define sugar spike pattern

A patient’s lifestyle and the foods they consume are two important factors when it comes to diabetes. Whole foods that are not processed should always be a part of their meal plan. Some of the basic rules are as follows:

  • Avoid drinks which are loaded with added sugars and carbohydrates. Minimising consumption of regular soda and large amounts of fruit juice is also a wise decision.
  • Add more low GI (glycemic index) foods in your diet.
  • Avoid all refined and processed foods, especially the packaged kind.
  • Exercising portion control wherein you fill half your plate with veggies or salad, ⅓ portion of your complex carbohydrates and the other ⅓ portion with a lean protein source.
  • Include healthy fats and protein to meals to balance the sugar levels (helps in lowering the GI of the meal) and cuts down sugar cravings.
  • Take time out for a physical activity on regular basis. Keeping yourself active would be your perfect partner to a healthy lifestyle: Food gives you energy, and activity can help to burn it up. It’s best to choose the activity which you enjoy as it’s more likely that you’ll be able to sustain if for a long time.
  • Use blood glucose testing to identify patterns in your sugar spike and be regular with your follow-ups.

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