1. What is pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is the state that occurs when a person's blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Studies have shown that many people with pre-diabetes develop Type 2 diabetes in the following 10 years.
2. What is Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?
A person with Type 1 diabetes has high blood glucose levels because the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually begins at a young age and often with dramatic symptoms. People with Type 1 diabetes must be given insulin injections daily. To control their blood glucose levels, they have to learn how to balance the foods they eat and the activities they do with the insulin they take. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting an estimated 90% of all diabetic patients. A person with Type 2 diabetes is able to produce some insulin but this may not be effective in keeping the blood glucose level normal.
Type 2 diabetes usually comes later in life, often after the age of 40. Many people may not realise they have diabetes as the symptoms begin gradually. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by diet, exercise and oral medications. Insulin injections may be needed if these measures fail to provide good control.
3. What are the steps I should take to control my diet?
When you have diabetes, it is important to watch your portion size, especially for carbohydrates, as they have a greater impact on your blood glucose levels. Keep your portion size within the recommendations of your dietitian. Opt for good carbohydrate sources including whole-grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and low fat milk. It is also important to limit intake of food which are high in salt, saturated and trans fat and cholesterol.
4. Can I still drink alcohol?
If your blood glucose level is under control (i.e your HbA1c is within target range), you may drink alcohol within the recommended amounts (i.e 1 standard drink for women and 2 standard drinks for men per day). Be careful if you are on insulin injection as taking alcohol can lower your blood glucose level even further and put you at risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
5. How can I make my favourite recipes more healthy?
Studies show that it is the total amount of carbohydrates that affects the blood glucose levels. As most sugary food are 'empty calories' and contain high amounts of fat and calories, it is best to limit intake. Instead go for food which contain natural sugars like fruit, raisins or low fat milk. Don't throw away your favourite recipes and cookbooks just because you have been diagnosed with diabetes as your favourite recipes can be adjusted for a healthier meal. Go for recipes which use healthy cooking methods like steaming, boiling, baking, grilling and stewing.
6. Why is physical activity important in people with diabetes?
Engaging in regular physical activity is an important part of managing diabetes. Physical activity helps to improve your blood glucose control and reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Physical activity also keeps your heart healthy and helps control your weight. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise programme. It is safe to exercise if your blood glucose level is within 5.5 to 13.8 mmol/l. Ensure that you are able to recognise symptoms of low blood glucose such as feeling shaky, nervous and confused. If this should happen, stop your activity and take something such as sweets, fruit juice or chocolate to raise your blood sugar level. When exercising, drink plenty of fluids and wear comfortable clothes and shoes that fit well. A combination of aerobic exercises (e.g. walking, cycling, jogging, or swimming) and strength training can lower your blood glucose level better than if you do either alone.
7. How does medication help my diabetes?
Your medication lowers your blood glucose level and reduces the risk of complications. It makes the pancreas release more insulin, helps the body to respond more effectively to insulin and slows down the absorption of glucose in the intestines.