An article by Hylton Mallach (Mr. M) and Annelien Van Brakel

This article is not intended for academic purposes but rather to inform the public of the realities of this growing concern)

What is diabetes?

Simply put, diabetes is an illness whereby an excess of sugar in the body is not broken down efficiently, thereby causing damage to various organs such as the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels (particularly in the feet) and can cause the onset of strokes and heart attacks.

Who can get diabetes?

Anybody can – especially those who have a family history of diabetes.  Please note that those that do not have a family history of diabetes are excluded, especially those that follow an inappropriate lifestyle and / or are obese.

How many types of diabetes occur?

There are two types of diabetes.

Type 1: (Insulin Dependent) – Type 1 diabetes is generally hereditary and insulin by injection is required to treat it.

Type 2: Type 2 diabetes is usually a result of bad eating habits and lack of proper exercise.  It is treated with oral medication.

At what age do symptoms appear?

Symptoms can appear at any age.  Parents often become aware of their children’s symptoms such as excessive thirst when they are very young but many adults are unaware that  they are diabetic.

Is the incidence of diabetes increasing?

Unfortunately the incidence of diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate mainly due to lack of exercise and obesity.

How do I know that my child has diabetes?

The best way to tell if your child has diabetes is using the 4 T System –

Toilet –using the toilet unusually frequently; this evident by heavier nappies in babies or an onset in bedwetting from older children who did not have a problem before.

Thirsty – Drinking more fluids than usual but being unable to quench thirst as well as an onset of increased hunger.

Tired – Feeling more tired and fatigued than what is usual.

Thinner – The onset of unexplained weight loss

What do I do if I suspect my child has diabetes?

A quick blood test at a pharmacy could give you a good indication if there is a problem or not however, further tests at a doctor would confirm the incidence of diabetes.

Can diabetes be cured?

At this point in time there is no ‘cure’ but the onset could be delayed and the severity decreased by adopting good eating habits and enough proper exercise.

What defines ‘correct eating’ when it comes to managing diabetes?

A visit to a dietician is advised but in short, the basics rules are that food should be grilled or steamed and flavoured with herbs instead of artificial condiments and salt.  Plenty of leafy green vegetables, a limited intake of starch, whole grain fibre and fruit in limited quantities are all important elements for a healthy balanced diet.  In addition to this, small helpings of food with a low starch component and limited unsaturated fats are recommended. ‘Junk Foods’ (except on infrequent occasions) should be restricted and definitely not be the main food source.  Fizzy drinks and undiluted fruit drinks should also be restricted if not all together avoided in favour of water.  When it comes to buying food, learn to read the labels.  Low carb does not necessarily mean the product is diabetic friendly and looking at the calorie or kilojoule content is also important.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to the above  – a lifestyle change needs to be a permanent change and consistency is the key to success.

What is a good guideline for healthy exercise levels?

Sitting in front of the TV is not exercise in any form or way. Cardiovascular exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, 5 days of the week will do absolutely no harm. Children should be encouraged to participate in sport and families should try to engage in healthy activities together such as hiking or cycling which both have numerous health benefits.