Maybe you’ll do some exercises tomorrow. Maybe you’ll get up early tomorrow morning and cook a hearty, healthy meal for yourself and your family. When your life stops being so stressful, you’ll quit smoking, until then you need this crutch. In other words, you’re only going to take your health seriously the day your doctor diagnoses you as a diabetic, right? If this is you, let this article be your wake-up call. As you may know, diabetes is a chronic non-communicable disease CNCD. This sounds quite harmless until you break down the statistics. Within the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago has the highest overall percentage of deaths due to CNCDs. Over 60% of all deaths are due to (4) major CNCDs including diabetes. Over 40% of the population does not get sufficient physical exercise weekly. 90.8% eat less than the recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetable daily. 50% of persons 24 – 64 have 3 or more risk factors for CNCDs. These statistics from the Ministry of Health are reason enough for us to start educating ourselves about this disease and start making the necessary preventative changes to our lifestyle.
First you have to learn more about diabetes. There are two types; Type 1 requires that the person take insulin everyday and Type 2 requires the person diet, exercise and sometimes also take insulin. Many people with Type 2 experience no symptoms so they don’t know they have diabetes. Some people are at higher risk for diabetes than others. If you have a family history of diabetes, you are very likely to become diabetic. All these things you should be aware of. If you have diabetes, you should correct other conditions that co-exist with diabetes as these bring about a high risk of cardiovascular accidents. Treating diabetes early can also prevent other health problems later. If you’re diabetic, you need to control your blood glucose before and during pregnancy to ensure you have healthy babies. Some women only have diabetes when they’re pregnant; gestational diabetes. Women who give birth to babies that weigh more than 9 pounds are also at higher risk of diabetes than others. Women with diabetes may have bladder infections and yeast infections due to high blood glucose levels. Let your doctor advise on how to treat these infections. Have regular pap smears and mammograms done to detect cervical and breast cancer early.
Changing your diet and making healthy food choices is also very important. Introduce lots of vegetables and fruits to your diet; pick from the rainbow of colours to ensure variety. Eat non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans. Change over processed grain products to whole grain foods, brown rice and whole-wheat spaghetti. Try dried beans and lentils, fish 2-3 times a week, lean meats, non-fat dairy and water and calorie-free drinks over soda and sugar-sweetened drinks. Cut back on high calorie snack foods. Remember: watch your portion sizes. Introduce regular exercise into your daily life, for better blood sugar control and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Muscles that are working use more glucose than those that are resting. This does not mean you have to run a marathon or overly exert yourself. Ask your fitness trainer or doctor to advise you on an exercise regimen or check online websites that offer this information. It all seems like a lot to do, but with time, these habits should become your lifestyle and therefore will come naturally to you. This is a lifestyle disease; all you have to do is modify your lifestyle. If you need guidance, the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago is there to help you, call them at 672-0139. Remember: the time is now, not tomorrow or the day after – NOW.