Updated 04 December 2017

Why that second helping could kill you

We are all guilty of succumbing to junk food and the sofa at times. This behaviour, however, could not only increase your waistline, it could also trigger type 2 diabetes.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA calls on South Africans to recognise the causes of type 2 diabetes and to take action to protect their health this Diabetes Week (12th – 17th November)

We are all guilty of succumbing to the sofa and junk food at some point or other. This unhealthy behaviour, however, could not only increase your waistline, it could also trigger type 2 diabetes.

Globally, diabetes kills 4.6 million people every year. In South Africa, around 3.5 million people have diabetes, affecting all ages, genders, income brackets and races. There are two major forms of diabetes (type 1 and type 2) – whilst type 1 can’t be prevented, type 2 accounts for around 90% of diabetes cases worldwide. And the epidemic of diabetes is on the increase, due to overweight, obesity and physical inactivity.

What’s more, diabetes greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, CVD, mainly heart disease and stroke, is the number one cause of death and disability among people with type 2 diabetes, killing at least 65% of people living with the illness. That is why the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSF) is calling on South Africans this Diabetes Week to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms, and to take steps to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“Diabetes is a major cause of premature death and disability in South Africa,” says Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the HSF. “Not only does it double your risk of heart attack and stroke, it also results in blindness, amputations and kidney failure for many sufferers. The good news is that you can prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications through leading a healthy lifestyle, and knowing the symptoms of diabetes so that you can detect and treat the disease early.”

Q. What is type 2 diabetes and what are the risk factors?

A. Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood is too high, caused when your body uses insulin ineffectively to control blood sugar. You are more likely to develop diabetes if you are overweight or obese, have a family history of diabetes, have suffered from previous diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or are physically inactive.

Q. What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

A. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be vague and are often ignored, resulting in people not seeking early medical attention. Symptoms include frequent urination, unusual thirst or weight loss, extreme hunger and extreme fatigue. In addition, you may also experience frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, and recurring skin, gum or bladder infections. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately. Diabetes can only be diagnosed by a health care professional.

Q. How can diabetes be prevented?

A. There is good evidence that much of type 2 diabetes can be prevented through eating a healthy diet, taking regular physical activity (30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise such as walking on five days of the week), maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco. Having a screening test done is also recommended, especially if you have risk factors for diabetes.

Q. What can people with diabetes do to lower their CVD risk?

A. If you suffer from diabetes, you can reduce your risk of CVD through simple lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Bringing your weight back down to a healthy level
  • Increasing physical activity to at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week to assist weight loss and lower blood pressure
  • Eating foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars, and high in fibre
  • Quitting smoking
  • Being extra vigilant in keeping optimal blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Taking medications as directed by their doctor.

For more advice on healthy living, visit, or call the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (0860 143278).

- (Heart and Stroke Foundation SA press release)

- (Health24, November 2012)

Read more:

All you need to know about diabetes
Pre-diabetes: could you have it?


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