How to prevent, control diabetes

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

January 23, 2019, 1:08 pm

MANILA -- Making healthy choices in diet and lifestyle is key if you are looking to prevent or control diabetes, a disease that affects millions of Filipinos.

Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) last year, Germelina Cruz, 77, made changes to her eating habits to ensure that she's not overcome by the disease.

T2DM is a health condition characterized by the high presence of sugar in the blood.

"Half-cup rice na lang ang kinakain ko tapos gulay at isda. Sa gabi naman, isang slice na lang ng tinapay. Wala na rin akong softdrinks at mga matatamis dahil binabantayan ko ang blood sugar na baka tumaas nang sobra (only then vegetables and fish are all I eat. In the evening, just a slice of bread. I no longer drink softdrinks and eat sweets because I'm careful that my blood sugar might shoot up," Cruz told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview. 

Germelina Cruz, 77, says she learned the importance of healthy eating after being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, a health condition characterized by the high presence of sugar in the blood. (Photo courtesy of Germelina Cruz)

Cruz said she's fond of eating sweets before she had T2DM.

"Simula nang nagkaroon ako ng trabaho hanggang tumanda, nahilig akong kumain sa labas kasama mga ka-opisina ko lalo na iyong matatamis. Tapos, lumipas ang taon kapag nagpapatingin ako sa doktor sinasabi lang mataas ang sugar ko kaya binigyan ako ng gamot (When I started working until I aged. I loved eating out with my officemates especially sweets. Then, when years passed, I had a checkup and the doctor said I have high blood sugar and gave me medications) for blood sugar maintenance," she added.

Data from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) show that there are over 3,721,900 cases of diabetes in the Philippines in 2017 while there are 425 million cases worldwide.

The IDF reported that by 2045, the number of people with diabetes worldwide would rise to 629 million which is equivalent to 48 percent increase in 20 years.

Cardinal Santos Medical Center Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism and Nutrition Section head Dr. Rosa Allyn Sy says many diabetics don't know that they have disease so she urges the public to have their blood sugar levels tested. (Photo by Ma. Teresa Montemayor) 

In a recent health forum, Cardinal Santos Medical Center Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism and Nutrition Section head Dr. Rosa Allyn Sy told PNA that in general, Filipino cuisine is not diabetic-friendly because it is oily and loaded with carbs.

She said diabetes, especially T2DM, could be genetic in nature or caused by a bad diet.

"Most Filipinos eat a lot of rice then a small portion of pork or chicken plus softdrinks," she said, adding that it is better to eat black or brown rice because they are fiber-rich and avoid eating junk foods and sweets.

"Sweets, sugar messes your brain. Try it. Drink cola, which has high sugar levels compared to table sugar, and it will send signals to your brain, making you want more sugar, higher level of sugar," she added.

Diabetes can be controlled to prevent complications and diabetics can still live normal and healthy lives.

To control her health condition, Cruz injects insulin three times a day, aside from eating healthy food.

"My husband injects insulin to me in the morning, afternoon and evening. Then, I take oral medications two before each meal and two after each meal," she said.

Because of the pain brought about by the daily injections and blood sugar tests, there are times when Cruz feels depressed and not interested to eat.

"Kapag sobrang malungkot na ako, minsan pinapayagan ako ng husband ko (When I'm overwhelmed by sadness, sometimes my husband allows me) to eat food I'm craving for so that I'll have appetite to eat, because he thinks it will be more difficult for me to get well if I feel depressed for a long time," she added.

Cruz said due to diabetes she's experiencing blurry vision, impaired hearing, difficulty in walking and slow healing of wounds.

"Nagkaroon ako ng sugat noong January last year na gumaling after a month, pero noong February naman nagkaroon ako ng mataas na lagnat. Para maka-exercise nagtutulak ako minsan ng carts kapag bumibili sa supermarket pero sandali lang iyon pero sinisikap ko na hindi lumagpas sa (I had a wound January last year which healed after a month, but on February I had high fever. To be able to exercise I push carts when buying in the supermarket but only for a short time but I'm careful not to exceed) 200 ang blood sugar," she added.

A year since she was diagnosed with T2DM, Cruz said with changes in her diet and physical activities, her blood sugar no longer shoots up.

Exercise, according to Sy, is important to burn the carbohydrates from food, which turn to sugar eventually.

"Most Filipinos, unlike Europeans, don't have physical activities. Europeans walk a lot, or they bike, but I can't blame Filipinos because walking here can sometimes be dangerous, but if you walk at least 10,000 steps a day, which you can track in your smartphone, it's already good exercise," she said.

According to the World Health Organization, simple lifestyle measures could ease the burden or reduce the possibility of T2DM.

WHO advised individuals to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight; be physically active; eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugar and saturated fats intake; and avoid tobacco use.

WHO added that early diagnosis of the disease is also important and it can be accomplished through inexpensive testing of blood sugar.

Sy urged the public to be screened for diabetes especially if they experience symptoms like excretion of urine, constant thirst and hunger, weight loss, vision changes, and fatigue.

"It is important to get checked because diabetes is intimately related to cardiovascular conditions, so prevention is key," she said. (PNA)