Diabetes Opinion & Profiles

A healthy lifestyle is helping this woman cope with diabetes during the Covid-19 pandemic

World Diabetes Day Covid-19
Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

World Diabetes Day: People living with diabetes are more vulnerable to Covid-19. Yet, a healthy lifestyle and proper adherence to treatment can bring strength, as this fit and healthy schoolteacher shows.

Just as Sikhangezile Dube was learning to live with her diabetes diagnosis, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The 39-year-old now found herself among the high-risk population, most susceptible to the coronavirus. Dube, though, was not afraid, sticking to her new treatment and routine to make sure she remained healthy and safe.

“As I am aware that diabetic people are more at risk of developing serious complications from Covid-19 to protect myself, I always make sure that I take my medications and follow all the necessary precautions to keep healthy all the times,” she says. “I also drink a lot of water to keep hydrated and to avoid eating a lot because the more you eat, the more the sugar rises.”

Covid-19 is often more severe in people who are older than sixty years or who have health conditions like, diabetes or conditions that affect their immune system, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Understanding diabetes

World Diabetes Day Covid-19

A healthy self image and positive lifestyle. (Image: Sikhangezile Dube)

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose, or blood sugar. It occurs when the pancreas no longer or struggles to produce insulin, which helps the body process glucose. Over time, this leads to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

There are three main types of diabetes. Type One diabetes often occurs among children and adolescents and is caused when the body produces no insulin. Type Two diabetes occurs when the body is unable to process the insulin it produces, and is often linked to lifestyle. This type is also the most common. The third type, gestational diabetes, occurs when blood glucose levels are abnormally high during pregnancy.

Though it is chronic, diabetes can be treated, and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity and medication. It is also important to go for regular screening and treatment for complications. To ensure that she stays fit and healthy, Dube exercises whenever she has a chance.

“I also exercise a lot by walking, running and a bit of some indoor exercises such as sit ups, planks and others,” says Dube.

Living with a diabetes diagnosis

Prior to her diagnosis, Dube would experience extreme thirst, blurry vision, frequent urination. But, she did not take the symptoms seriously until she visited a doctor.

World Diabetes Day Covid-19

Sikhangezile Dube exercises whenever she can. (Image: Sikhangezile Dube)

“I used to think that urinating frequently was because I drink a lot of water but one day after peeing, I could tell that my urine was smelling in a weird way, that’s when I decided to seek help,” she says.

A family history of diabetes meant she was not surprised by the diagnosis, but is also meant greater support. Dube, who lives Maungani village outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo, was diagnosed last year.

“Well when I was finally diagnosed by a doctor that I was diabetic I was not really surprised nor shocked as my uncle from my mother side is also diabetic. I also received all the support I needed from my family and friends,” says the schoolteacher. “At home, my seven-year-old child even decided to set an alarm so that I do not forget to take my medication, which I take twice a day at 6am and 6pm.”

Still, while she did not struggle to accept her diagnosis, she did find adapting to a new lifestyle hard at first.

“At first it was so difficult to cope with the condition because at times it went up to high and I had to adjust some of my eating habits,” she recalls. “I had to start eating sugar free food and vegetables. Now I do not take sugar at all or sugary drinks, and instead if I feel the need to drink something I often go for pure water.”

The importance early diagnosis

Dube, who was in her later 30s when she was diagnosed, urges other young people to go for regular check-ups for  chronic diseases like diabetes.

“I think most young people are reluctant to get tested for diabetes because they think only old and fragile people can be diabetic which is wrong,” she says. While some are embarrassed to take their medications because they worry about how their friends are going to look at them.”

Around the world, 422 million people live with diabetes, with majority living in low-and middle-income countries, says WHO. Each year 1.6 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes and both deaths and have steadily increased over the past few decades.

As the world prepares to mark World Diabetes Day on 14 November, Dube willingness to embrace a positive lifestyle after her diagnosis could inspire others. —Health-e News

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.