Diagnosed with Diabetes
If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, here are a few things you need to know – you are not alone. In the next four years, seven million Malaysians are expected to have diabetes and it is prevalent among 31.3% adults. The World Health Organisation (WHO) even dedicated November 14th for this medical condition.
Diabetes is a medical condition where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin at an optimum level. There are four types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2, gestational diabetes mellitus and prediabetes. Of these, gestational is a case of glucose intolerance during pregnancy and disappears post-delivery for women. Prediabetes is the presence of higher blood glucose levels but it is not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. A 2016 report indicated that prediabetes in Malaysia is underdiagnosed.
Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune case where cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed by the body’s immune system. Type 2 refers to a condition where your body does not make enough insulin or the insulin made does not function properly. Half of those with Type 2 diabetes are 54 years or younger. Up to 90% of people living with diabetes have Type 2. Both types have similar symptoms. Some of them include:
- frequent urination
- feeling thirsty and drinking a lot of fluids
- feeling hungry
- feeling fatigued
- blurry vision
- cuts or sores that don’t heal quickly
Dealing with Your Diagnosis
It is most important that you learn to deal with your diagnosis. Diabetes refers to high levels of glucose or sugar in your blood. You need to understand this medical condition and how it affects you. You also need to understand how it will create an impact on your life.
The biggest change you would undergo is related to your diet. Your diet needs to be changed, depending on your diet. Those with Type 1 diabetes will have to monitor their carbohydrate intake. If you have Type 2 diabetes you have to undergo a diabetes management course.
You need to understand the course of medication and its side effects including the possibility of it reacting to your present set of medicine.
Questions to ask your doctor
- When should I have my blood sugar checked next?
- What are the signs that my blood sugar is too low?
- What should I do if my blood sugar gets too low?
- What are the signs that my blood sugar is too high?
- What should I do if my blood sugar is routinely too high?
- How much should I be exercising? Should I take any special precautions?
- Who could help me design a meal plan?
- What kind of complications does diabetes cause?
- Do I have any complications caused by diabetes?
- Which other specialists should I be seeing?
- How easily can I get a referral to a specialist when needed?
- At what point should I consider medication to lower my blood sugar?
Talking to your family about the diagnosis
Talking about your diabetes condition to your family and close individuals is not easy but it is essential for you to do so that they would know how to react in the event they have to react to a condition you are facing. Sharing the diagnosis would give you a sense of relief as it is also a heavy burden to shoulder all alone. Here are five tips that you can use in addressing the issue with your loved ones.
- Determine what you want and don’t want to talk about
- Lead them into the conversation
- Let them pose questions after you speak because they are concerned about you
- Explain to them how they can help you. It can be in the form of emotional support and assist you with a new diet.
- Be patient with them as they may be overly concerned about whether you can manage to live with diabetes.
Planning for Your Future
Since the majority of the population has Type 2 diabetes, here is how you can plan your future while managing the medical condition. There are certain lifestyle changes you would have to follow religiously.
In opting for a healthy lifestyle, the easiest thing for you to do is to walk. Walk more, preferably a 20-minute stroll after having meals since that would bring down the blood sugar level. Even a 10-minute walk after meals is better than a 30-minute walk at any other time.
Strengthen your body
Do more cardiovascular workouts that would strengthen your body. Body-weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, wall-sits, and lunges can be done without the need for equipment from a gymnasium. Please also consult a doctor before you begin a new exercise routine.
A blood sugar meter is your ally
From now on, the blood sugar meter is your best buddy. It is a device that would allow you to have better control over your blood sugar and power your health. It comes in various names: blood glucose meters, continuous glucose meters (CGM). Discuss with your doctor the frequency to check your blood sugar. Monitoring the blood sugar would also be helpful for the doctors who are treating you.
CGMs and Insulin pump therapy has been used here since 2005. Insulin therapy is especially useful for Type 1 diabetes patients.
Annual eye check-ups
Having diabetes would lead you to have eye-related medical conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. Symptoms for these medical conditions are not noticeable. Your eye doctor would be able to track that. So please go for your annual eye checkups.
Generally, people would watch out for the sugar content on the nutrition label that they purchase. It is not the sugar content that you would have to look out for. Look out also for the carbohydrate content. Even if a product claims to be sugar-free, the presence of carbohydrates doesn’t make it sugar-free. Carbohydrates, when broken down, become sugar that would raise your blood sugar level. As for your diet, ensure that it is made up of three to four food groups. As far as possible make sure your meal is starch free. Instead of animal-based protein such as beef and other poultry, you can try beans, legumes, and soya. Even fish with omega 3 fatty acids are good protein options.
The American Academy of Periodontology has found that diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal diseases. Having periodontal disease would make it more difficult to control blood sugar. You would also increase your risk of having diabetic complications. To be on the safe side, please have a dental check-up done annually.
Check on your feet regularly before you retire to bed for peripheral neuropathy. It is a type of nerve damage that affects the feet and legs. About 50% of people having diabetes also have this condition. High blood sugar damages the nerves on the legs and small vessels that nourish the nerves.
Have adequate sleep
Please get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. There is a somewhat strange 2-way link between diabetes and sleep. Those who have Type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of having sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and those with sleep disorders also have a higher risk of having diabetes. Having longer high-quality sleep would help reduce your blood sugar level.
Care Options in Malaysia
Traditionally diabetes care was hospital-based. However, since the 1990s, it has evolved to include the private sector as well as technology-based care using the apps on smartphones.
Homage offers all-around care services in terms of nursing care, vital signs monitoring, medical administration, post-surgery care. Daily living care by locally trained caregivers would cost RM29 per hour. Locally qualified nurses for your nursing care would cost RM34 an hour. Home therapy by locally trained therapists is RM170 per hour
Diabetes Support Groups in Malaysia
- National Diabetes Institute (NADI) offers various forums and seminars to help one understand diabetes. They also conduct free counselling and blood test sessions. You can also consult them regarding the lifestyle change you would have to do.
- Diabetes Malaysia focuses on care for diabetic patients via awareness, prevention, education and management of this medical condition.
Living A Full Life with Diabetes
- Living a full life with diabetes is a reality since it is manageable. Here are some tips to living a full life with diabetes:
- Eat healthy with a proper diet that would not increase the blood sugar level
- Exercise. Spend about 5 hours exercising in a week.
- Lose 10% of your weight as that would reduce the impact of diabetes.
- Monitor and treat your blood sugar levels. Use metformin that is prescribed by your doctor to control the sugar levels.
- Follow the treatment plan. Attend regular screenings. You can also purchase blood glucose monitoring kits.
- Prevent infections because diabetes increases the risk of infections. It can be life-threatening for those with diabetes compared to those without diabetes.
- Managing diabetes is a reality even though it is not curable.
Chattu, V. K., Chattu, S. K., Burman, D., Spence, D. W., & Pandi-Perumal, S. R. (2019). The interlinked rising epidemic of insufficient sleep and Diabetes Mellitus. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 7(1), 37.
Hussein, Z., Taher, S. W., Gilcharan Singh, H. K., & Chee Siew Swee, W. (2015). Diabetes care in Malaysia: Problems, new models, and solutions. Annals of Global Health, 81(6), 851–862.