Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both.
According to Crispin Gishoma, the director of Rwanda Diabetes Association, regardless of the type of diabetes one is suffering from, the control formula is the same.
“For all the patients of diabetes, sensitisation on the disease and getting involved in knowing more about it is very paramount. This will help them get a close relationship with their doctor as they learn things like what could be the effects of their medication and how it works,” says Gishoma.
The medic also says that visiting a nutritionist to discuss what, when and how much food a patient should be eating is equally important.
This, he says, will enable one to maintain a healthy lifestyle as eating unhealthy might lead to deterioration of the disease, as well as bring about complications like obesity and hypertension.
Gishoma also says that, for a complete control of diabetes, a patient must be involved in physical activities of their choice so as to balance the medication and food taken in.
“The control of diabetes is like a triangle; therefore, exercising is linked to the other control measures. Exercising enables one to control the impacts of food and medicine as all these have different effects on levels of blood sugar in the body,” he says.
Dr Eric Musengimana, a nutritionist at Diet Therapy Company in Remera, Kigali, says that exercise for a diabetic patient is necessary for several reasons.
Exercise for such cases doesn’t only help in balancing the impacts of food and medication, but also, it helps one keep their weight under control,” says Musengimana.
Musengimana also says that exercise will enable a patient to keep an active mind, muscles and general body.
He advises that as one takes the proper medication and exercise, they must also watch their diet.
“They should eat a balanced diet, avoid concentrated sugars and focus on getting plenty of fibre through plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains,” he recommends.
Regarding weight, Musengimana also says that one must keep track of the carbohydrates so that they don’t go overboard, as well as avoid sugary drinks.
He says that patients must eat proteins from sources like fish, chicken, dairy products, or vegetables, adding that up to 25 per cent of their plate for each meal should be proteins.
Blood sugar levels
Medics say that for a diabetes patient, it is important to measure their blood sugar levels as many times as they can daily, especially for Type 1 patients.
Gishoma says that despite the expensive equipment used to check blood sugar levels, one must ensure to own a glucose metre, glucose strips and lancets.
“It is recommendable, especially for a Type 1 diabetic patient, to check their status before and after eating, before going to bed and in the morning,” he notes.
He also advises patients to take an HBA1C test which is done once every three months so as to determine their level of control. This, Gishoma says, helps a patient to lay targets for the next check-up as one is able to learn where they went wrong.
Patients are also advised to have a support system to always lift their spirit up. Avoid isolation and discrimination since at any time, blood sugar levels may change, hence needing immediate help,” he says.
Also, stay away from stress. Stress leads to high blood pressure. Habits like smoking must be stopped as this doesn’t only affect the lungs, but also narrows one’s blood vessels.