Diabetes is a metabolic disease affecting almost 8% of the population. Although it is a chronic condition, it can be controlled and managed effectively. It is sometimes called a ‘silent killer’ as over half of the people with diabetes continue through life undiagnosed, and unknowingly experience long term or irreparable damage to their bodies.

The disease often goes unnoticed because its symptoms may be vague or not particularly worrisome. Things to look out for are increased frequency of urination, excessive thirst or hunger, unexplained weight loss or gain, feelings of fatigue or irritability and blurry vision.

In patients with diabetes, blood glucose levels are high as a result of defective insulin regulation. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that is responsible for controlling blood glucose or “blood sugar” levels. Insulin is released following consumption of food to regulate the glucose level. If insufficient insulin is released, blood sugar levels become abnormally high, causing hyperglycemia.

In cases where the condition is left undiagnosed or is managed poorly, diabetes can have a devastating effect resulting in kidney failure, nerve damage and even blindness. Diabetes can also accelerate the deterioration of arteries leading to increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

The instances of diabetes are on the rise with an increasingly overweight population. Younger and younger people are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the insulin resistant type usually associated with obesity. This reflects on our society’s increasingly poor lifestyle choices and bad eating habits. The good news is that we can change our habits to reduce our risk of developing this devastating condition.

Type 2 diabetes is directly related to sugar consumption. To avoid dangerous peaks and troughs it is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Reducing or eliminating sugary foods including soft drinks and refined carbohydrates from your diet, can dramatically improve your blood sugar regulation. Starchy foods such as potatoes and sugary fruits can also increase your carbohydrate level leading to flux in blood sugar levels.

Moderate and regular exercise plays a role in helping to maintain desirable levels of blood sugar. Beginning an exercise regime or modifying your diet drastically should only be considered under close supervision of a doctor or nutritionist, especially if you are already diagnosed with diabetes.

For a more holistic approach, you should also aim to reduce or eradicate stress from your life. Stress can influence your blood sugar levels, so relaxation and exercise are both beneficial to you.

Skin care is also essential for sufferers of diabetes, because the blood supply to the extremities can be reduced, leading to problems with infection and gangrene. Blisters, sores and cuts should be taken care of immediately as the body will have a reduced ability to heal.

Although diabetes is usually controlled with medications and close supervision of a physician, your quality of life will be more dependent on the amount of self help you are willing to undertake. A person, who controls their blood sugar through medication as well as good nutrition and regular exercise, can enjoy the same level of normal function and longevity of someone who does not suffer from diabetes.