By Sola Ogundipe
Beat Obesity, Beat Diabetes” is a slogan that is fast catching on. A few months ago, a colleague and friend got a diagnosis she wasn’t expecting— type 2 diabetes. She was shocked. The diagnosis was devastating because there were no symptoms. So how come, what happened?
After a lengthy heart-to-heart talk, she revealed that her grandmother had diabetes. A maternal aunt also died of complications from diabetes. So it was in the family. With help from medical experts, she changed her diet and began exercising.
At the time of diagnosis, she was a rather large 92 kilos. Last week, just before this year’s World Health Day on April 7, with the theme “Beat Diabetes”, she was 15 kilos lighter and her blood sugar normal.
The main goal of the World Health Day 2016 campaign is to inform people about the increasing prevalence of diabetes. More Nigerians are diabetic than any other Africans. A diabetes diagnosis might feel overwhelming, but living well with the condition doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re ready to take control of your blood sugar levels, lifestyle, weight and generally get on the path to better health, here’s how to start.
First step is to get involved. Get informed and empowered. Take an active role in your care. Ask questions. Next step is to lose weight. Being overweight is a major driver of diabetes. Any good doctor will tell you that being overweight increases your risk of developing diabetes and that it’s crucial for diabetics to keep their weight in check.
Watch your diet
A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for health. A healthy diet reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Although the causes of diabetes are often complex, lifestyle changes such as healthy plant-based eating and exercise can help prevent the disease. One of the most effective ways to prevent or treat diabetes is to consume more vegetables, beans, and whole grains while eating less animal flesh. Studies have found that plant-based eating improves diabetics’ health and reduces the risk of developing the disease in the first place.
Physical activity is one of the main pillars in the prevention of diabetes. Increased physical activity is important in maintaining weight loss and is linked to reduced blood pressure, reduced resting heart rate, increased insulin sensitivity, improved body composition and psychological well-being. To lose weight, try to exercise three times a week for 30-60 minutes a day. But moving your body is good for a lot more than that. Exercise shouldn’t feel like a punishment. If you want to go swimming, go swimming. If you want to go dancing, go dancing. Your goal is to strike a healthy balance, not achieve perfection.
Watch your waist
Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Try to get rid of the extra kilos around your middle. People that are ‘apple shape’— usually men in their 40s and 50s—are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Weight loss improves insulin resistance and reduces hypertension.
Choose low fat
Patients with type-2 diabetes who eat low-fat vegetarian foods lose significantly more weight than those who eat meat and dairy foods. Any weight loss is beneficial so don’t stop after you lose a few kilos. It is encouraging to know that even if you lose a little bit of weight, it is helping your body.
Eating healthy plant-
based foods leads to improved glycaemic control, reduces lipid levels, and reduces rates of renal disease. Diabetics are urged to substitute “soy or other vegetable proteins for animal protein” as vegetarianism will produce very significant metabolic advantages for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications.
Vegetarians are far less likely than meat-eaters to be overweight, which is probably a large part of the reason why vegetarians are less likely to develop diabetes. In fact, vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters are. By slimming down with plant-based eating, you will look great while significantly improving your health.
Fibre is important
Nutrition research strongly indicates that eating large amounts of dietary fibre dramatically reduces the risk of developing diabetes. Fibre lowers blood glucose levels, which can improve diabetics’ health significantly. There is no dietary fibre in animal flesh, eggs, and dairy foods—fibre is found only in plant-based foods like beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Focus on getting plenty of fibre. Keep track of your carbohydrates and stay away from sugary drinks, and trans fats. Instead, stock up on protein—up to 25 percent of your plate at each meal should be protein from sources like fish, chicken, dairy, or vegetables. Load up on these and make a significant investment in your health.
Reduce dairy intake
There is a strong link between the consumption of dairy foods in childhood and the development of type1 diabetes. There is very strong evidence that dairy foods can lead to a wide array of health problems, including diabetes and the depth and breadth of evidence implicating cow’s milk as a cause of Type 1 diabetes is overwhelming, even though the very complex mechanistic details are not yet fully understood.