5 Lifestyle Tips: Managing and Living with Diabetes

Michael Ngigi, a 35 year old and senior strategic designer at Think Place had a normal life until December 2019, when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Before this diagnosis, he had been experiencing night sweats, regular periods of hot flushes and palpitations for 15 years.

Michael was shocked and extremely devastated by the news that came at a time when he had made lifestyle changes like cutting sugar and refined starch from his diet. He had also been hitting the gym regularly for two years and couldn’t understand why this was happening to him.

“I was angry and bitter because I had just started figuring my life out and as a person who has had the opportunity to travel around the world on public health projects, I knew that diabetes is one of the deadliest diseases to have.”

After going through counselling and diet consultation, Michael’s health became a top priority and he gathered all the tools he could find to pinpoint where he had been going wrong and started his journey to recovery.

Since December 2019, he has managed to lose weight from 98kgs to 77kgs, reduced his cholesterol and normalised his blood glucose levels.

“This is what I have learnt in the process and tips that will help you make great strides when it comes to your health and managing diabetes.”

Health is wealth

As much as this is a cliche saying, its meaning is truly understood by those who have had a health scare. More often than not, we believe that as long as we feel fine and we are alive there’s nothing to worry about. Any doctor will tell you, you are not any more special than the next person and that as long as you’re human you need to take charge of your health.

Sickness wipes out fortunes of families and with 60% of adults in Africa living with undiagnosed diabetes, it is important that you get tested for this and many other genetic diseases. 

Visit your doctor or specialist

The internet is flooded with weight loss and diet remedies but ultimately you need to have your health and vitals checked by a doctor before trying out any of them. I have learned that many conditions progress over time unless it’s an infectious disease so visit your doctor and do  all the tests that you can do or stick to vitals if you cannot afford a full exam.

Create a good relationship with your doctor and keep track of all your results and pay attention to any changes to your health for you to address them in time.

Let food be thy medicine and not the other way around

Diet is probably the one area you need to put the most work into when you have diabetes. Taking up a healthy diet and sticking to it is not easy and this has been a tough adjustment even for me but I stick to the plan when I consider the life I want to live and the people I love.

I have always loved cooking and entertaining my friends and family over a barbeque so when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was afraid I was going to lose this part of which I considered to be an accurate representation of myself.

After a lot of research, I was overwhelmed and frustrated. I realized that I needed to eliminate foods that gave me the results and outcomes that I did not want and to my surprise it was more than 90% of what I was consuming everyday.

There are a lot of theories out there on diet and eliminating foods that are unhealthy but ideally, it’s about monitoring your body’s reaction before and after taking any type of food and cutting out what works  for you and what doesn’t. 

Invest in basic health diagnosis and tracking tools

The best thing you can do is invest in basic health diagnosis and tracking tools that will always be available in your home. I am talking about a thermometer (infrared if possible), blood pressure metre, a bathroom weighing scale and a glucometer. 

Having these tools at home will help you avoid unnecessary trips to the clinic and most importantly you will keep daily reports that will let you know if anything deviates from the normal.

Keep a Diary

The game changer for me was the discovery that despite not consciously taking sweet foods and drinks for five years, my results were still showing that I was injecting sugar into my bloodstream.

I learnt what foods were good for me and eliminated the ones that made me sick by measuring what I ate against the glycemic index. A Food diary will help you keep track and take charge of your diet. 

I also measure my blood sugar when I wake up , after I eat, and before I go to sleep. I also take random measurements that include blood pressure.

The biggest lesson here is learning to read and interpret your own results. I downloaded an application that tracks my sugar, weight and blood pressure and stores the results on a cloud folder. 

“My motivation now is spending more time with my wife, daughter, family and also achieving the dreams I have always put up on my vision board. I realised I want to live so desperately even if it means giving up the thing I love.”

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