It is estimated that around 4.6 million adults in South Africa have diabetes, which accounts for approximately 8.5% of the adult population, while one in three (13 million) adults in South Africa are classed as being at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
As it is currently Youth Month in South Africa, health experts at MedicalAid have revealed 7 hidden signs of diabetes and top tips on how to prevent it from a young age.
Unexplained weight loss: Despite eating normally or even more than usual, individuals with diabetes may experience unexplained weight loss due to the body’s inability to properly utilise glucose as an energy source.
Fatigue: Feeling tired and lethargic is a common symptom of diabetes due to the body’s inability to efficiently convert glucose into energy.
Increased hunger: Experiencing constant hunger and craving for food, even after eating, can be a sign of diabetes.
Blurred vision: High blood sugar levels can affect the lens of the eye, leading to blurred vision.
Slow wound healing: Diabetes can impair the body’s ability to heal wounds, making even minor cuts and sores slow to heal
Numbness or tingling: Prolonged high blood sugar levels can damage nerves, leading to tingling or numbness, usually in the hands or feet.
Top 4 tips to help reduce the risk of diabetes:
Healthy diet: Consuming a balanced diet that is low in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Emphasise on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Regular physical activity: Regular exercise, such as taking a short walk, jogging, or cycling, can help maintain a healthy weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight or losing excess weight if overweight can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption: Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing diabetes, so it is important to avoid these habits.
Peer support and mentoring:
Young people with diabetes should be encouraged to connect with others who share their condition. Peer support groups and mentoring programs provide a sense of community, allowing individuals to share experiences, seek advice, and learn from each other.
Educating young people about the risk factors associated with diabetes, such as poor diet and sedentary behaviour, is crucial. Encouraging healthy habits early on can significantly reduce their risk of developing the condition.
Encourage self-care and empowerment:
It is essential to teach young people with diabetes how to manage their condition effectively. This includes monitoring blood sugar levels, taking medication (if necessary), and recognizing and managing symptoms. Empowerment can be encouraged by fostering an emphasis on active participation in diabetes care.
Raise awareness through campaigns and events:
Community or educational diabetes awareness campaigns or events can be organised to promote advocacy, inclusivity, empathy, and support for young people struggling with diabetes. Activities such as walks, health fairs, or educational sessions can be included.
Integration into daily life:
To maximise their usefulness, these suggestions should be included in daily activities. They can be included in daily life and culture to increase diabetes awareness and prevention, especially in young people.