Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that occurs when the body struggles to regulate blood sugar levels. It has a major impact on your overall health if you suffer from the condition. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the facts surrounding the illness. Discover more about diabetes, learn to recognise the symptoms and how to prevent or manage the condition. Bloom, in conjunction with Momentum’s Health4Me, provides a comprehensive guide. Find out more.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a severe metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia). If you suffer from diabetes, then it means that your body does not produce enough insulin, which is a hormone required to regulate your body’s sugar levels. Insulin is able to transfer sugars to cells in your body where it is used for energy. Without insulin, your blood sugar continues to rise and, if left untreated, high blood sugar can cause damage to your organs like the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and/or blood vessels.
It is estimated that about 4.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes and even more unknowingly suffer from pre-diabetes. This critical and chronic illness remains the second most common form of death in the country. South Africa is noted as having the highest number of adult diabetics on the African continent.
The 3 different types of diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes and gestational diabetes. There is also pre-diabetes. The different types are differentiated by their underlying causes, development and management.
- Type 1 Diabetes. This is known as insulin-dependent diabetes. It’s an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body is unable to produce enough insulin leading to high blood sugar levels. Type 1 Diabetes presents during childhood. The cause and prevention remain unknown. People with this type of diabetes are required to use insulin injections or insulin pumps to regulate their blood sugar levels.
- Type 2 Diabetes. This is the most common type of diabetes. Certain lifestyle factors contribute to the risk of the disease, like obesity and lack of exercise. It’s also heavily influenced by hereditary factors. In this type of diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin over time. The pancreas may not produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle changes and having regular check-ups.
- Gestational Diabetes. This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy when a woman’s hormonal changes affect her insulin sensitivity. This usually occurs in the 24th week of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition and tends to resolve after childbirth. However, this condition increases the risk for both mother and child to develop Type 2 Diabetes.
4) Pre-diabetes. This is a metabolic condition in which the blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 Diabetes yet. It serves as a warning signal to people, indicating that there is a very high risk of them developing diabetes if they don’t make healthy lifestyle changes.
How to check for diabetes?
There are a number of ways to check for diabetes, which include:
- Glycated Haemoglobin Test: This will reflect the average blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. A level of 6.5% or higher, is considered a diagnostic for diabetes.
- Fasting Blood Sugar Test: A blood sample is taken from a patient after an overnight fast. A blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or higher is indicative of diabetes.
- Blood Sugar Test: A random blood sample is taken, usually with a finger prick. A result of 200 mg/dL or higher is an indication of diabetes.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: The patient is required to drink a glucose solution after an overnight fast. Their blood sugar levels are measured before and after two hours after consumption. A level of 200 mg/DL or higher is indicative of diabetes.
Momentum Health4Me offers a random Blood Sugar Finger Prick Test at participating pharmacies, like Dis-Chem, Clicks, MediRite or Pick n Pay Pharmacy Clinic as part of your annual health assessment benefit.
The symptoms of diabetes
How can you tell if you have diabetes? There are some telltale signs to look out for that may appear mild, but are worth taking note of or mentioning to your GP. The most common symptoms of diabetes could include some of the following:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurry or poor vision
- Sores or injuries that don’t heal
- Frequent infections
- Unexplained weight loss
- Sexual dysfunction
Health implications of diabetes
Diabetes can have a far-reaching impact on your overall health. Here are some of the ways this metabolic condition can negatively affect those with the condition:
- Neuropathy. Diabetes can cause nerve damage that results in numbness, pain or loss of sensation in the extremities, like the feet or hands. It can often lead to foot ulcers and infections. In severe cases, it can result in amputations.
- Cardiovascular complications. Diabetes causes an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke because the high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels and contribute to atherosclerosis.
- Vision and eye problems. Damage to the blood vessels in the eyes can lead to severe impairment of one’s vision and can even lead to blindness.
- Skin complications. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing skin infections due to impaired blood circulation and a weakened immune response.
- Sexual dysfunction, in both men and women Men can suffer from erectile dysfunction and decreased libido while women can suffer from vaginal dryness due to blood vessel damage.
- Oral health. There is an increased risk of gum disease and other serious dental problems if one has diabetes. Discover more about How diabetes affects oral health.
- Pregnancy complications. Gestational Diabetes can lead to pregnancy-related complications, including a high birth weight, premature birth or preeclampsia.
Who is at risk for developing diabetes?
According to the South African Heart and Stroke Foundation, the following key factors put people at a greater risk for developing diabetes:
- Obesity. Excess body weight, especially around the abdomen, increases your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- Hereditary factors and family history. Having close family members with diabetes increases your risk of developing the condition.
- Age. The risk of Type 2 Diabetes increases as one grows older.
- Sedenatary lifestyle. A lack of regular exercise can contribute significantly the risk of developing diabetes.
- Unhealthy diet. Indulging in a diet that is high in sugar, sodium, saturated fats and highly processed foods will raise your diabetes risk.
- High blood pressure. Hypertension can cause many complications, including diabetes.
- High cholesterol. Cholesterol is a type of fat that builds up in your body, which over time can form a stiff plaque that clogs your arteries. High LDL cholesterol levels can elevate a diabetes risk.
Living healthy: how to prevent, or treat diabetes
There are a number of precautions one can take to prevent the progression or development of diabetes. This includes:
- Knowing your family history. Be aware of any risk factors in your family’s medical history.
- Regular check-ups. If you do have any diabetes risk factors, it’s recommended to have regular check-ups to monitor your health.
- Maintain a healthy weight with a nutritious diet and regular exercise.
- Make smart lifestyle choices – limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking.
- Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as these are contributing risk factors.
Early diagnosis and proper management of the condition can help those with diabetes lead a healthy life.
If you have received a diabetes diagnosis, it’s essential to treat the condition in order to manage your blood sugar levels and minimise the impact on your overall health. Children will need to be supervised by a primary caregiver until they’re old enough to manage the condition on their own.
Type 1 Diabetes
- Insulin therapy: regular insulin injections or insulin pumps are used to regulate blood sugar levels
- Blood sugar monitoring: regularly checking blood sugar levels in order to adjust insulin doses accordingly.
- Healthy diet: consistent carbohydrate intake, along with the timing of insulin is important.
- Regular physical activity and exercise: can help manage one’s blood sugar levels.
Type 2 Diabetes
- Lifestyle changes: making adjustments like sticking to a healthy diet where one reduces the intake of processed foods, sugar or sodium. A regular exercise programme and maintaining a good weight are also lifestyle changes that make a positive impact.
- Medication: your GP or healthcare practitioner can prescribe drugs that will help control your blood sugar levels, increasing your insulin sensitivity or decreasing glucose production.
What do we cover?
Bloom is committed to healthy living. If you have a serious chronic condition or disease, you will need specialist medical care and services. Make sure you and your family are covered for chronic benefits and get the right healthcare cover.
We have a wide portfolio of healthcare options that will suit your medical needs and budget. Choose from:
- Health Insurance. We have partnered with the respected Momentum Health4Me provider for health insurance that provides top-quality, affordable plans to people on a budget, including;
- Health4Me Gold. This is our most popular and premium, yet affordable health insurance option.
- Health4Me Silver is a balanced health insurance option that brings you high-quality and competitively priced private healthcare.
- Health4Me Bronze is our entry-level health insurance option that provides you with quality healthcare at an affordable premium.
- Medical aid. Together with our partner, Momentum, we also offer affordable medical aid solutions across three categories. Take a look at the benefits to decide which plan best suits your particular medical needs.
- Ingwe is an affordable, entry-level medical aid plan that’s perfect for first-time earners and students. You will receive hospital coverage, day-to-day and chronic illness benefits when you use the network providers.
- Custom includes cover for hospitalisation in private hospitals. The Custom option provides cover for a range of day-to-day benefits such as preventative screening tests, certain check-ups and more.
- Evolve is for digitally savvy individuals looking for affordable hospital cover and virtual GP visits, with the ability to manage their membership from their devices in the comfort of their homes.
- Gap cover. This option takes care of medical expense shortfalls. Many healthcare services charge above medical scheme rates, which means that you would need to cover the difference out-of-pocket. Let Gap Cover assist with these extra expenses. Compare:
- Gap Core is the affordable answer to extra medical expenses. It covers the gap between what your medical aid covers and what hospitals and specialists charge.
- Gap Max is the premium and comprehensive answer to unexpected medical expenses. This option covers the shortfall between what your medical aid covers and what hospitals and specialists charge, with many added benefits
Momentum Health4Me Gold will cover the cost of your chronic medication for diabetes, provided that it has been approved and prescribed by a network GP from the list of 26 chronic conditions. Once you’ve received approval and authorisation, simply fax or email your prescription to a Medipost Pharmacy and let them know where to deliver it. You can fax through to 0866 82 33 17 and email to firstname.lastname@example.org