MANILA -- Small lifestyle changes can help prevent diabetes, according to both experts and people living with the condition.
Dr. JM Co, head of the UERMMC Diabetes Center, said eliminating simple sugars from one's diet would already make a huge difference.
"Start by eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet, and progress gradually to avoiding sweets altogether," he said in an online interview with ABS-CBN News.
According to Co, Filipinos can use the Pinggang Pinoy of the Food Nutrition and Research Institute as their guide in maintaining a balanced diet, with the right proportions for each food group.
He pointed out that diabetes patients tend to mistakenly avoid carbohydrates completely, but this is far from ideal.
"Complex carbohydrates are preferred – such as whole grains, vegetables and beans," he said, adding that restrictions are recommended for animal fat, oily food, and those with high salt content.
Regular exercise and maintaining a proper body weight can also greatly help prevent diabetes, according to Co, as well as skipping cigarettes.
Lack of physical activity, being overweight or obese, and smoking are considered risk factors for the development of the condition.
"Choose an exercise you enjoy doing. Guidelines generally recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. Moderate intensity means that you can still talk while you exercise, but can no longer sing," he said.
Similar advice was given by former national athlete Gerardo Rosario, 63, who has been living with diabetes for more than ten years.
He was one of the participants of Abbott's 30-day challenge for diabetes management, along with 50-year-old Normita Mendiola.
"Be careful with the food you eat since these affect our glucose levels," he said, adding that Filipinos should also "listen to their bodies" and have regular checkups.
Mendiola also stressed the importance of a healthy lifestyle in preventing diabetes.
"It’s never too late to listen to your body. Be careful with your diet, be more physically active, and always remember the old maxim, 'Bawal ang sobra,' in your food intake," she said.
In the month-long challenge, participants were asked to monitor their glucose using the Abbott FreeStyle Libre System, go on a nutritionist-prescribed diet plan, and take oral supplements like Glucerna.
Mendiola admitted that she was initially struggling to stick to the meal plan, but later on felt the positive effects of the challenge on her body.
"I am more determined to be physically active and consistent with my routine to sustain the benefits I’ve received after the 30-day challenge," she said.
Rosario, on the other hand, said replacing junk food with healthy alternatives helped regulate his glucose levels. And just like Mendiola, he also gradually enjoyed the gains from the 30-day challenge.
"The challenge helped me understand how different foods lead to varying reactions to my sugar levels," he said.
Dr. Co, meanwhile, believes that the 30-day challenge is an example of how lifestyle modifications can help control diabetes.
"With the correct education, medications, and tools for monitoring, their sugars improved markedly in just a few weeks," he noted. "With proper discipline and compliance to management plans, patients may change the course of this disease."