Diabetes mellitus affects millions of people worldwide – in South Africa alone, more than 4,5 million people are diagnosed with either diabetes mellitus 1 or 2, according to the International Diabetes Federation. With World Diabetes Day celebrated annually on 14 November, let’s look at how this group of diseases affects the way in which your body deals with glucose, the sugar found in your blood.
How your body regulates your blood sugar level
When your body digests the food that you eat, it converts the carbohydrates in the food into glucose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body. Glucose is essential to ensure your body functions properly, and is your body’s main source of energy. As the glucose level in your bloodstream rises, the pancreas releases insulin – a hormone that helps the glucose to be absorbed by the various cells in your body. Some of the glucose is stored in your liver, muscles and fat cells where it is converted into glycogen. As your body uses the glucose and stores glycogen, your blood sugar level drops and insulin is no longer released.
If you haven’t eaten for a few hours, the glucose level in your bloodstream drops. This triggers the pancreas to release enzymes which convert the stored glucagon back into glucose, to be used by the cells in your body. As soon as your blood sugar level starts to rise, the pancreas once again releases insulin to assist with the absorption of the glucose. This cycle continues throughout the day, making sure your blood sugar level remains stable.
Symptoms and effects of diabetes
If you suffer from diabetes, it means that there is too much glucose in your bloodstream. This happens because insulin is not released properly. Read more about the symptoms and effects of diabetes here.
How to keep your blood sugar level stable
- Eat small, regular meals
Regular meals spread evenly throughout the day will ensure that a consistent source of energy is available and will prevent you feeling fatigued. It will also make you feel less hungry less often, thereby reducing the number of kilojoules you ingest and helping to control your weight.
- Increase your fibre intake
Fibre helps promote a more gradual rise in the blood sugar level, as it slows sugar absorption and carb digestion. Foods high in fibre include wholegrain bread and oats, pears and oranges, broccoli and sweetcorn, and potatoes with the skin.
- Drink lots of water
Drinking enough water not only prevents hydration, but also helps your kidneys flush out any excess sugar in the body through urine. Make drinking water more enjoyable by infusing a jug of water with blueberries and oranges, lemon and mint, or strawberry and basil.
Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks where possible, as these will raise your blood glucose level, drive weight gain and increase your risk for diabetes. Try hot or iced teas, Glacéau fruit water or Sprite Zero.
Medihelp’s routine screening benefits
Regular glucose testing remains the most accurate method to monitor your blood glucose level and prevent developing medical complications later in life.
All Medihelp’s medical aid plans offer additional cover for routine screening tests, including one individual blood glucose/cholesterol test or one combo test (blood glucose, cholesterol, BMI and blood pressure measurement).
Medihelp also offers an Early Detection programme aimed at identifying individuals with undiagnosed high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, to support them in managing their conditions.