The different pillars associated with treating diabetes include nutrition, physical health and a positive mental attitude towards this diagnosis. Communication and information are your most important weapons, and AstraZeneca is committed to providing ongoing initiatives to help patients adjust to living with high diabetes and provide evidence that "Diabetes is not an end, it is the beginning of a better way of living".

At present, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. The environmental triggers that are thought to generate the process that results in the destruction of the body's insulin-producing cells are still under investigation.

There is a lot of evidence that lifestyle changes (achieving a healthy body weight and moderate physical activity) can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Changing your lifestyle could be a big step toward diabetes prevention - and it's never too late to start. Follow these 5 steps to prevent diabetes:

Step1: Start Moving: Get Physically Active

There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Physical activity is one of the main pillars in the prevention of diabetes. Increased physical activity is important in maintaining weight loss and is linked to reduced blood pressure, reduced resting heart rate, increased insulin sensitivity, improved body composition and psychological well-being. Exercise can help you:

  • Lose weight and keep your waist line below 88cm(female) and 102 cm (male).
  • Lower your blood sugar
  • Increase your sensitivity to insulin - which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range and prevents insulin resistance
  • Regular aerobic exercise will increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and will contribute to lowering blood pressure
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improve body composition and psychological well-being
  • Reduce resting heart rate

Research shows that both aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes.

Step 2: Increase Fibre Intake

Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Fibre reduces your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control. Fibre:

  • Lowers your risk of heart disease
  • Promotes weight loss by helping you feel full
Step 3: Lose Weight

Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Weight loss improves insulin resistance and reduces hypertension. People who are overweight or obese should therefore be encouraged to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

If you're overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every kilogram you lose can improve your health. Participants in one large study who lost a modest amount of weight, 7% of initial body weight and exercised regularly, reduced the risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 %

Step 4: Follow a healthy eating plan

Skip fad diets and make healthier choices.

Low-carb diets, the glycemic index diet or other diets may help you lose weight at first, but their effectiveness at preventing diabetes isn't known nor are their long-term effects. And by excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients. Instead, think variety and portion control as part of an overall healthy-eating plan. A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for health. A healthy diet reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

A nationwide study completed over a 10-year period showed that if people keep their blood glucose as close to normal as possible, they can reduce their risk of developing some of these complications by 50 percent or more.

Step 5: Lifestyle changes to consider
  • Smoking:
  • A well-established risk factor for many chronic diseases, including diabetes and its complications. As well as other harmful effects, smoking increases abdominal fat accumulation and insulin resistance. All smokers should be encouraged to quit smoking. However, weight gain is common when quitting smoking and therefore dietary advice on avoiding weight gain should also be given (e.g. managing cravings and withdrawal symptoms by using short bouts of physical activity as a stress-relief activity, rather than eating snacks).

  • Stress and depression
  • There is evidence of a link between depression and both diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

  • Sleeping patterns:
  • Both short (<6h) and long (>9h) sleep durations may be associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Sleep deprivation may impair the balance of hormones regulating food intake and energy balance. Long sleep durations may be a sign of sleep-disordered breathing or depression and should be treated appropriately. There is also a close association between obesity and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA), the most common form of sleep disordered breathing.

Yes2life's steps on how to move on:
Step 1:

Learn as much about diabetes as possible. Most people don't know much at first, so this is not easy. Get support from family and friends to help you deal with the diagnosis.

Step 2:

Start a routine. Keeping a routine when you have diabetes can help ensure adherence to diabetes management. Routines help establish consistency in blood glucose levels and reduce the risk for severe blood glucose fluctuations.

To implement a successful routine when you have diabetes, gain a good understanding of what major factors influence blood glucose levels, so you can keep them in mind while building your routine. Some major factors that influence blood glucose levels include:

  • food/meals
  • physical activity
  • diabetes medications and/or insulin
  • Illness, stress, hormone levels also have a significant effect on blood glucose levels
Step 3:

Start using the Yes2Life website to help you understand diabetes, improve your lifestyle and monitor your blood glucose. Get the facts about diabetes and learn how you can stop diabetes myths and misconceptions.

There is no such thing as 'mild' diabetes. Diabetes is always serious. If it is left untreated or is not well managed, the high levels of blood glucose associated with diabetes can slowly damage both the fine nerves and the small and large blood vessels in the body, resulting in a variety of complications.

Having diabetes need not mean the end of a normal, healthy life. People with diabetes need to first accept the fact that they have the condition and then learn how to manage it. This takes commitment and perseverance. The goal of diabetes management is to bring blood glucose levels into the normal range, that is, between 4-6mmol/l. There are various aspects to good diabetes management.

  • Education - Knowing about diabetes is an essential first step. All people with diabetes need to learn about their condition in order to make healthy lifestyle choices and manage their diabetes well. Join your local branch of Diabetes SA and attend courses in diabetes self-management. Make an appointment to see a Nurse Educator who will set you on the path to good diabetes management.
  • Healthy Eating - There is no such thing as a 'diabetic diet', only a healthy way of eating, which is recommended for everyone. However, what, when and how much you eat play an important role in regulating how well your body manages blood glucose levels. It's a good idea to visit a registered dietician who will help you work out a meal plan, which is suitable to your particular lifestyle and needs.
  • Exercise - Regular exercise helps your body lower blood glucose, promotes weight loss, reduces stress and enhances overall fitness and enjoyment of life.
  • Weight Management - Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important in the control of type 2 diabetes. Make an appointment to see a registered dietician who will work out a meal plan to help you lose weight.
  • Medication - People with type 1 diabetes require daily injections of insulin to survive. There are various types of insulin available in South Africa
  • Lifestyle Management - Learning to reduce stress levels in daily living can help people manage their blood glucose levels. Smoking is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is controlled through exercise and meal planning and may require diabetes tablets and\or insulin to assist the body in making or using insulin more effectively.