Diabetes also known as diabetes mellitus has become a common term even amongst the rural dwellers in Nigeria. Each time I travel to my village, I hear my country men and women talk about “sugar disease”. The common understanding of what diabetes is among many Nigerians is high level of sugar in the body (blood stream). This basic understanding has guided many who though are not so much exposed, to avoid some food intakes especially soft drinks, beer and other staples with high level of carbohydrate. This behaviour shows two things. One, it showsthe extent of awareness people have of diabetes unlike the days when such sickness and the likes were ascribed to poison or worst still attacks from the gods. Two, it shows how prevalent diabetes has become. According to a report in World Journal Diabetes, about 10% of the Nigerian population has different types of diabetes. There are four types of diabetes:
- Type 2 Diabetes also called Adult Onset Diabetes. This is a condition whereby the body cannot properly process blood sugar. In this case, it is either the body does not produce enough insulin or it resists insulin. Insulin is the hormone produced by cells in the pancreas. This hormone helps to regulate the level of blood sugar and prevents it from getting too high or too low. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes include: increased thirst (dehydration), frequent urination, hunger, blurred vision and fatigue (tiredness). Nigeria has estimated cases of about 1.5m a year.
- Type 1 Diabetes: it is also called Juvenile Diabetes; it is a condition whereby the pancreas cannot produce insulin at all. This type of diabetes is typical with adolescents and young people below the age of 40. That reminds me; we have this belief in Nigeria that diabetes is mainly for elderly people. I have not seen a proof for this but I know a lot of young people who are diabetic. Studies credited to the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan show that about 100 thousand cases of type 1 diabetes are discovered in Nigeria every year. The symptoms are same as type 2.
- Prediabetes: This is a condition whereby the blood sugar level is high but not enough to be described as type 2 diabetes. A prediabetes condition can metamorphose into the type 2 diabetes condition within a few years if not properly monitored and controlled. This is also very prevalent in Nigeria accounting for about 1.5 million cases every year. A prediabetes condition can be controlled by changes in lifestyle. There are no symptoms.
- Gestational Diabetes: This is a condition of high blood sugar level in pregnant women. Placenta hormones aid the increase in the blood sugar level in pregnant women. This also increases the chances for type 2 diabetes in future. This same study credited to UI College of Medicine estimates 100 thousand cases every year.
There is so much noise out there about treatment and cure for diabetes. In researching for this article, what I have found out from the reports credited to different health institutes is that most types of diabetes mellitus can only be managed not cured except the prediabetes condition which can be managed and reversed. Most other types last for a life time. I am emphasizing this because a lot of Nigerians keep moving from one spiritual home to another or one herbal home to another in search of cure for diabetes. Diabetes can only be managed and controlled but not cured.
From the foregoing, it is pertinent to say that prevention of diabetes is far better than its treatment. Some folks believe that diabetes is hereditary; that no matter how much you try to prevent it, it is a question of time if it is in your family. While I believe that diabetes like many other conditions could be hereditary, I do not believe you must have it if it is in your family. With proper attention to our personal health, we can prevent any health condition in our family from affecting us. Diabetes can lead to other health complications such as; heart problems, stroke, hypertension, eye complications, and erectile dysfunction in men, long lasting sours and wounds and so on. It is however very important to take steps towards preventing diabetes. Such steps might include:
- Regular Exercise: Regular exercise such as walking out helps to regulate blood sugar level. It increases insulin sensitivity thereby reducing the amount of insulin required to keep the blood sugar level under control. Walk 1-3km every day.
- Control of Carbohydrate Intake: Going low on carbohydrate can go a long way to reduce your risk of getting diabetes. Carbohydrate is found in most of our staples-pounded yam, semo, yam, rice, garri Going low on them would eventually prevent the blood sugar level from shooting up after each meal thereby requiring less insulin to work.
- Drink more Water: Water is most important beverage you can think of. Take water first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Take enough water during the day and it’ll help you stay away from sugar-laden beverages that increase the risk of diabetes. Water also helps other organs of the body to function effectively.
- Increase Fibre Intake: Eating foods rich in fibre is a good way to keep diabetes at bay. Examples are: whole grains, potatoes and vegetables
- Always Monitor your Sugar Level: Monitoring your sugar level can help you regulate your diet and other activities of yours. There are many self-help easy to use devices to do this; ask your local pharmacist or better still visit a laboratory or a hospital on regular basis.
- Avoid Stress, Get Enough Rest: Stress triggers off a lot of things in the body system. Stress changes your mood and when moods change, hormonal charges take place. This can trigger increase in blood sugar level. Stress can also make you eat more than required thereby increasing your chances of weight gain which isn’t good for diabetes prevention. Stress and lack of sleep can reduce or kill your desire to exercise the body. This is also a pointer to increasing the risk of developing diabetes.
- Take Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple Cider Vinegar can help reduce the level of your blood sugar. Studies have shown that apple cider vinegar promotes insulin production and reduces cholesterol. Take 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar added to a glass of water before bedtime.
- Reduce Alcohol Intake: Alcohol affects liver directly thereby inhibiting it from regulating the level of blood sugar in the body. It is a double tragedy taking alcohol on an empty stomach. When you drink alcohol, you’re giving your liver a serious work to do. This work will reduce your liver’s attention to other duties which include regulating the blood sugar level.
- Reduce Soft-Drinks Intake: Soft-drinks have the capacity to increase one’s weight and may lead to obesity. This is also not good for diabetes prevention. Diabetes is one of the diseases linked to obesity.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking has over the years been seen as a major cause of complications in the body. These complications affect the functionality of the major organs of the body. When these major organs of the body are affected, the risk of having all manners of illness including diabetes increases exponentially.
This may not be the first time you’re reading about diabetes but it might be the first time you should do something about it or the first time you should tell somebody about it. Diabetes takes a lifetime to treat and it is not a situation you would either want to be part of or want your loved one to be part of. Jim Rohn says: Take care of your body; it is the only place you have to live in.
US National Library of Medicine
World Journal of Diabetes