As we celebrate World Health Day on 7 April, it is worth noting the rapid rise in lifestyle-related illnesses that are contributing to deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and dementia at a faster rate than ever before.

“Beat Diabetes” is the theme for this year’s World Health Day. According to Clinix Private Hospital Group and Statistics South Africa, at least 58 people die every day from Diabetes in South Africa.

Lifestyle specialists at Clinix say SA has all the features of an unhealthy nation and one of the reasons for the diabetes high death rate is because of lack of access to insulin and to medical professionals who have specialised in treating Diabetes.

This is compounded by the high numbers of people with poor lifestyle habits. When it comes to type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — prevention is a big deal. It’s especially important to make diabetes prevention a priority if you’re at increased risk of diabetes, for example, if you’re overweight or have a family history of the disease.

Diabetes prevention is as basic as eating more healthfully, becoming more physically active and losing a few extra pounds — and it’s never too late to start. Making a few simple changes in your lifestyle now may help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes down the road.

Clinix believe numbers would come right down if people practiced healthy lifestyles and were more aware. It is estimated that about 50 percent of people living with Diabetes are unaware they even have the illness. Many deaths and complications could be avoided if people went for screening and if people sought health care earlier.

Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control

Tip 1: Get more physical activity

There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise can help you:
• Lose weight
• Lower your blood sugar
• Boost your sensitivity to insulin — which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range
Research shows that both aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes, but the greater benefit comes from a fitness program that includes both. In terms of food, avoid sugar-sweetened foods, snacks and beverages, ultra-processed foods and fast foods. – One sugar-sweetened beverage a day increases the likelihood of being overweight by 55% in children and 30% for adults. Remember starch and sugar are refined carbohydrates and because they are easily converted into blood glucose they drive insulin levels upwards and if these high levels are sustained over time often make people insulin resistant.

Tip 2: Get plenty of fibre

It’s rough, it’s tough — and it may help you:
• Reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control
• Lower your risk of heart disease
• Promote weight loss by helping you feel full

Foods high in fibre include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Tip 3: Go for whole grains

Although it’s not clear why, whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your grains whole grains. Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat, including various breads, pasta products and many cereals. Look for the word “whole” on the package and among the first few items in the ingredient list.

Tip 4: Lose extra weight

If you’re overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every pound you lose can improve your health, and you may be surprised by how much. Participants in one large study who lost a modest amount of weight — around 7 percent of initial body weight — and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent.

Tip 5: Skip fad diets and just make healthier choices

Low-carb diets, the glycemic index diet or other fad diets may help you lose weight at first, but their effectiveness at preventing diabetes isn’t known nor are their long-term effects. And by excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients. Instead, think variety and portion control as part of an overall healthy-eating plan.
When to see your doctor

If you’re older than age 45 and your weight is normal, ask your doctor if diabetes testing is appropriate for you. Clinix recommends you go for screening:
• You’re age 45 or older and overweight
• You’re younger than age 45 and overweight with one or more additional risk factors for type 2 diabetes — such as a sedentary lifestyle or a family history of diabetes

Share your concerns about diabetes prevention with your doctor and remember that most of our Clinix Private hospitals offer free testing. Help beat diabetes today!