Diabetes is a global epidemic expected to affect over 640 million people by 2040, putting one in every 10 adults at risk of the many life-threatening health complications associated with the disease (e.g. blindness, cardiovascular diseases, kidney failure and lower limb amputation). By 2040, it’s estimated that nearly two in 10 of the world’s diabetics will be living in Southeast Asia… not surprising considering the wonderful, and not always healthy, food that we have in the region. What is Diabetes though? Diabetes is a disorder of the body’s metabolic system, which converts food into energy. Typically, the food we digest is broken down into glucose, a form of sugar that is carried by the blood to cells throughout the body. However, for glucose to enter the cells insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, must be present. While the disease has the potential to overwhelm healthcare systems and affect economies across the globe, diabetes is largely preventable and controllable. In a newly published whitepaper, Diabetes: The world’s weightiest problem, Aetna International found that the cost associated with early detection and disease management is far lower than the cost of acute, often emergency, inpatient hospital treatment. Aetna has recorded a 53 percent increase in diabetes prevalence over the last two years (2014 to 2016) amongst its Southeast Asian members. Together with Aetna’s medical management team, Derek Goldberg, Managing Director, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, believes the most effective way of combating diabetes is through a disease specific care-management programme for diabetes, and has provided these tips: – 5 Tips to Prevent Diabetes – Get Active Reduce your risk — If you’re descended from one of these groups and are either overweight or over age 45, ask your doctor to test you for diabetes. This involves taking a fasting blood test and/or drinking a sugar solution to see how your body responds. Even if your blood sugar levels are normal now, doctors recommend the following prevention strategies — especially if your heritage puts you at greater risk. Maintain a healthy body weight — If you’re overweight, losing just 5-7% of your body weight can cut your risk of diabetes in half. Get active — Movement matters, so turn off the TV and take a brisk 30-minute walk most days of the week. Eat well — You don’t have to give up everything you enjoy. Just adapt recipes and make choices that focus more on vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and unsaturated fats and less on processed foods and meats, packaged baked goods, foods with refined flour or added sugar, and sugary or sugar-substitute drinks. Take charge of your health — Be sure to go to the doctor to have your cholesterol, blood pressure, vision and other important health indicators checked out since diabetes often goes hand in hand with other conditions. And tell your doctor if you’ve been feeling down lately since depression can reduce motivation to exercise and eat well. – 5 Tips to Manage Diabetes – Depend on Friends Stick to the routine Once you’ve learned how to eat healthier, monitor your blood sugar levels, take medication and be active, set yourself up with routines you’re more likely to follow. Store your testing strips and meds near your spectacles or contact lenses, or on a bathroom shelf — wherever is easiest to remember first thing in the morning. Plan your meals and snacks ahead so you can keep blood sugar levels evened out. Schedule your daily walks, bike rides, strength training sessions or other physical activities — consider joining a group or pairing up with exercise buddies to motivate and commit yourself to this schedule. Stay on top of other conditions Three-quarters of all diabetics have at least one other chronic condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, nerve problems, eye conditions, circulatory problems or kidney disease. Any of these can progress to serious levels if not kept in check, and poorly treated diabetes makes them worse. Be sure to visit your primary care doctor and specialists regularly, and always share with each one any concerns you’ve been having since many of them are interrelated. Be smart about your medications: understand what each prescription is for, learn when and how to take them, and know what side effects to watch out for. Depend on friends More and more people are living with diabetes, and they tend to do better managing the condition when they have support. Turn to friends and family members for reinforcement of the lifestyle changes you’re making, and who knows — you may end up helping them as well! You can also find support groups at your local or government hospital, and through organisations in Singapore such as the Diabetic Society of Singapore and TOUCH Diabetes Support (TDS). Use your resources Today, patients with chronic conditions are increasingly using email or secure websites to communicate with their health care providers. Many say they find it more comfortable and convenient, and a third have found it improves their overall health. You can also rely on online communities, social media and your health insurance company’s wellness resources for education and creative ideas. Check out #DSMA on Twitter, DiabetesDaily.com or Diatribe.org, to name a few. Just be sure you look at credible sources and don’t substitute online advice for your own doctor’s. Find the right apps Today’s wide variety of apps lets you do so much more to help you manage your diabetes. You can monitor your blood sugar, track your weight, log what you eat, set exercise goals and analyse your sleep patterns. Take a look at some of Healthline’s top-rated apps, including Diabetes in Check, Glucose Buddy and Weight Loss Coach. Download and use the ones that best fit your lifestyle to keep you on track.