Diabetes is our fastest-growing chronic disease. A healthy diet and exercise are the cornerstones of treatment - and the best ways to cut your chances of becoming a victim.
Diabetes - the hidden epidemic
Over 1.2 million Australians have the illness, but only half of them know they have it. And type 2 diabetes - largely triggered by obesity and being inactive - represents around 90 per cent of all diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you are almost three times more likely to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. As many as 80 per cent of people with diabetes will die of heart disease and the complications are scary - kidney disease, foot ulcers, retinopathy (eye problems) and blindness and even limb amputation.
Eating a healthy diet, regular exercise and losing excess weight (if you need to) are the cornerstones of treatment for diabetes.
A balanced diet for diabetes
If you have diabetes or cook for someone who does, follow these healthy eating tips to improve your diet:
1. Eat small portions and eat regularly
Don't skip meals and then have a huge dinner at night.
2. Don't overeat
If you're overweight, it's important to cut back on your portions and do daily exercise to improve your metabolism and help your muscles ‘recognise' the insulin you make.
3. Spread your carbohydrate
Spread bread, pasta, rice, potato, biscuits over the day - have some at each meal and mid-meal.
4. Choose foods low in saturated fat to protect your heart
Avoid butter, cream, fat on meat, deli meats like salami or bacon and take-away foods.
5. Go for the healthy fats
Cook with olive, canola or rice bran oils, use hummous or avocado as a spread on bread instead of butter, sprinkle a tablespoon of chopped nuts over salad or stir-fries.
6. Increase omega-3s
Omega-3 oils from fish, seafood, canola oil, linseeds, dried beans and green vegetables keep the blood free-flowing and improve insulin resistance.
7. Fill up on fibre
Aim for plenty of fibre-rich vegetables, salads, baked beans and lentils, wholemeal bread, bran cereals, prunes, dried figs and raisins.
8. Choose 'better' carbohydrates
Try to include slow-digesting carbohydrates as these will demand much less insulin and won't produce a ‘spike' in your blood sugar. Good choices are pasta, breakfast oats, muesli, chick peas, green peas and other legumes, Basmati or Doonagara rice, barley, noodles, apples and pears.
Diabetes now affecting children
Type 2 diabetes is closely related to obesity, so as more children become overweight, the level of diabetes is increasing. Teenagers as young as 16 have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It tends to run in families but the treatment for the kids is the same as for adults - losing excess weight and eating well. For teens, this can be hard and will mean limiting fast food, crisps and salty snack foods, soft drink and chocolate - the ‘junk food' teens love to eat.
Let's not forget that type 1 diabetes is still the most common form of diabetes in children and adolescents, accounting for over 90% of diabetes in this age group.
Are you a candidate?
You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you:
- are over 50 and have high blood pressure
- are over 50 and overweight
- are over 50 and one or more members of the family has diabetes
- had gestational diabetes while pregnant
- have heart disease or have had a heart attack
- have recorded a borderline blood sugar level
- have polycystic ovary syndrome and are overweight
- are over 35 and are an Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander
- are over 35 and from Pacific Islands, Indian sub-continent or Chinese background
If you fit any of these categories, it's time to modify your lifestyle and to speak to your doctor a blood test.
Take a look at the resources on offer at Diabetes Australia.