Diabetes Management: Tips from A Pharmacist
Words Abraham Mathew Saji
Diabetes, the “sweet killer” which is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases, kidney failure, blindness, amputations and stroke, can affect anyone from any age group and walk of life.
When we eat, our food gets converted to glucose or sugar in our bodies. The pancreas releases a substance known as insulin which enables the conversion of glucose to energy. In a person with diabetes, the pancreas fails to release insulin resulting in a high content of glucose in the blood. There are many reasons for the pancreas failing to release insulin, such as genetics, environmental and lifestyle, to name a few.
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Poor healing of wounds
- Frequent infections
According to the Diabetes Country Profile for Malaysia published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016, the prevalence of diabetes in Malaysia grew at an alarming rate.
(Source: WHO Diabetes Country Profiles, Malaysia, 2016)
Diabetic complications are one of the key factors leading to cardiovascular diseases. The same 2016 WHO report indicated that diabetes and cardiovascular diseases put together are responsible for 39 percent of deaths in our country.
(Ref: WHO Diabetes Country Profiles, Malaysia, 2016)
In conjunction with World Diabetes Day and with an eye on the alarming statistics surrounding diabetes in Malaysia, here are a few simple and easy-to-practice tips from your friendly pharmacist.
1. Avoid breaking or splitting your pills. Most of the medications for diabetes are formulated to deliver the active ingredients at a particular rate into your bloodstream. Breaking or splitting the pills can cause the formulated matrix to be disturbed, thereby playing havoc with the rate and extent of the active ingredients released. This can have adverse effects on sugar levels in the blood and in other systems in our body.
2. Avoid skipping your dose of medication. Often, people assume that it is acceptable to skip the dose of medication when they don’t eat, when they eat a smaller portion or when they are unwell. Our body can produce glucose from other sources beyond the food that we eat. Hence it is very important to take the medication regularly as prescribed.
3. Follow the instructions given at the time of dispensing, especially in terms of timing of consumption, food and other medications to be avoided. Some medications or food can have serious implications on your blood sugar levels and can also affect blood pressure.
4. Avoid self-medication. Some people may take a myriad of products in a bid to get diabetes-free early. They tend to self-medicate and take a high number of supplements in addition to the medications prescribed. This could lead to “drug-drug interactions” and result in another set of complications or diseases.
5. Follow the prescribed dose of medication. Some people consume double or a higher dose of the prescribed medication in hopes that it will ‘cure’ them sooner. The medication in its prescribed dose is optimized for each individual patient depending on various factors. Not following the prescribed dose can complicate the treatment regimen and worsen the condition.
6. Avoid delaying treatment. Some individuals delay the start of diabetic treatment as they believe that the medications could have side effects. Some people also attribute their diabetic condition to their body weight and start a rigorous weight loss programme instead of taking prescribed medications. Delaying treatment can cause one’s diabetes to progress to the next level, thereby warranting a higher dose or stronger medication.
7. Make lifestyle adjustments. Diabetes is well known as a lifestyle-related disorder, so changing one’s lifestyle can play a major role in the treatment. Eating frequent smaller portions of food, managing stress, sleeping well and getting sufficient exercise are some easy-to-adapt changes one can make.
8. Don’t be shy to ask questions. At the time of your medication being dispensed, feel free to ask any and all questions you have in mind. A few examples of such questions are: will I need to take this medication for life? What if I forget to take a dose of this medication? What are the side effects of this medication? Will this medication have any interaction with my other medicines?
9. Cut down on your salt intake. We tend to relate diabetes directly to the intake of carbohydrates or sweet food. Since pre-diabetics and diabetics are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications or so-called “diabetes induced hypertension”, controlling salt intake is an essential part of management.
10. Reward yourself. Rather than getting discouraged upon diagnosis, reward yourself appropriately at every step of progress made during treatment, as diabetes is a chronic disorder and is to be managed progressively.
It is very important to take diabetes in one’s stride and incorporate its management, rather than treatment alone, as a routine part of life. The diabetic patient is the most important participant in this management team and holds the master key to the success of the management process and enhancing the quality of life. The management process requires dedicated work with proper planning and commitment. Speak with your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian to see how else you can improve your diabetes care plan.
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