Diabetes is a chronic medical condition in which the blood sugar level in the body remains high for prolonged periods of time. In Singapore, it is estimated that one out of nine people aged between 18 and 69 has diabetes — about 11.3 percent of our population!
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Preventing Type 2 diabetes is possible. Some risk factors, such as being overweight or obese, following an unhealthy diet, taking insufficient physical activity or smoking are modifiable through behavioural and environmental changes. Other risk factors – such as genetics, ethnic and age – are not modifiable, which means they cannot be changed.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is usually found in adults, while Type 1 diabetes is generally unpreventable.
What is Pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is a condition when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but are not high enough that you are considered as being diabetic. The risk factors for pre-diabetes are largely the same for Type 2 diabetes.
To find out if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, do see your doctor for a health screening. Your doctor will then conduct a blood test to determine your blood sugar levels.
If your blood sugar levels are on the high side, don’t panic; instead, consider this a wake-up call! It is not too late for you to act so that you do not develop Type 2 diabetes, as pre-diabetes can be reversed. Try these four simple steps, which can be condensed into the acronym “BEAT”:
Step 1: Be Aware of How You Can Fight Diabetes
Knowing what diabetes is and understanding that pre-diabetes is reversible with the right lifestyle changes can help you beat diabetes. Various factors could put you at higher risk of developing diabetes, such as having a parent or sibling with diabetes. It is important for you to undergo regular health screening even if you feel healthy (diabetes is a ‘silent’ disease in early stages) as an early diagnosis can prevent serious and irreversible complications.
Step 2: Eat Right to Prevent Diabetes
Healthy eating has many benefits, such as boosting your energy levels. My Healthy Plate is a useful visual guide on how to create nutritious and balanced meals.
Typically, your meal should consist of fruit and vegetables, whole-grains and proteins. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can also prevent many health problems such as heart disease and some cancers.
In addition, remember to choose water instead of sweetened drinks, and to limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Step 3: Adopt an Active Lifestyle to Prevent Diabetes
Typically, you should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (like brisk walking and leisure cycling) per week, for at least 10 minutes each time, or 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous activity (like jogging/running and swimming continuous laps) three or more days per week. This may sound daunting, but the good news is you can choose the activities you enjoy and combine moderate and vigorous exercises for more variety.
However, be sure to check with your doctor before you start an exercise programme if you have a medical condition or have not exercised for a long time.
Step 4: Take Control of Your Lifestyle to Prevent Diabetes
Obesity is a key risk factor that you can take control of. Be sure that you achieve weight loss the right way by balancing the food you eat with daily physical activity. Regular exercise not only helps you to keep fit but also helps you de-stress, which is important for your mental well-being! Too much stress could lead to a vicious cycle: when unable to cope well with stress, you could neglect your health by making unhealthy lifestyle choices such as binge-eating and not exercising. This could then make it harder for you to control your blood glucose levels, increasing your risk of developing diabetes.
Sometimes, taking control of your health and mental well-being can be as easy as ensuring that you have enough sleep every night! Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night by setting aside time to relax before bedtime. Sleep deprivation not only affects your ability to focus but has also been linked to diseases od pressure and diabetes.
Lastly, smoking puts you at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And if you already have diabetes, smoking makes it even more challenging to manage and increases your risk of serious complications. If you are a smoker, make the decision to quit smoking today.
If you are aged between 18 and 39 years old, find out your risk of developing type 2 diabetes using the Diabetes Risk Assessment. If you are aged 40 and above, it is recommended you undergo health screening in Singapore once every three years under HPB’s Screen for Life programme.