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Healthy Eating

Healthy eating and leading an active lifestyle is important for everyone. Meals and foods that are recommended for people with diabetes are the same as for those without diabetes, therefore there is no need for a special 'diabetic' diet.

Healthy eating does not need to be complicated. Everyone including family and friends, can enjoy the same healthy and tasty meals together, based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines. For more information about these guidelines go to:

There is a misconception that if you have diabetes you need to avoid sugar. It is important to understand that it is not sugar in itself that causes diabetes but rather a combination of factors such as being overweight, being inactive and having a genetic predisposition. Sugary foods, such as soft drinks, lollies and cakes that have no nutritional benefit, may add to weight gain and this is why it is important to limit excessive sugars in your daily intake.

Guide to healthy eating for people with diabetes

Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods including:

  • Plenty of vegetables including different types and colours, and legumes/beans.
  • 2 fruit serves and 5 vegetables serves per day.
  • Choose wholegrain or high fibre (e.g. bread, breakfast cereals, grains, rice and pasta).
  • Lean meat, fish, poultry and alternatives such as legumes and tofu.
  • Low fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese.
  • Choose healthy oils and fats made from vegetable sources such as olive oil, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Limit saturated fat from sources such as animal fat, butter, lard, ghee.
  • Choose foods that are low in salt and limit the use of salt in cooking or at the table.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Limit food containing added fat and sugar such as biscuits, cakes, lollies, chips, pastries, regular soft drinks.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol. If drinking alcohol, aim for no more than 2 standard drinks per day and ensure to have 2 alcohol free days during the week.

Physical Activity

Exercise or physical activity is important for everyone. Being active has many benefits for your physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing.

Regular physical activity can:

  • Increase muscle strength and bone mass.
  • Improve circulation.
  • Help with weight loss and weight control.
  • Reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Reduce stress and tension.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Improve mental activity, and positive outlook.

For a person with type 2 diabetes physical activity also improves the action of insulin in the body therefore it can help to lower blood glucose levels. Because physical activity can help insulin work more effectively, it is important for people with diabetes that take certain medications or use insulin to take special precautions. Discuss this with your doctor or diabetes educator.

To have the greatest benefit, it is recommended to accumulate 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week or 20-40 minutes on most days. If you currently do no physical activity, the time spent being physically active can be broken down into shorter sessions of 10-15 minutes each and can be gradually built up to the recommended amount. It is also recommended to be active on most, preferably all, days every week.

Moderate intensity will increase both your heart and breathing rate. When you are working at a moderate intensity you should still be able to talk, but be puffing too much to be able to sing. Along with this type of physical activity it is also important to include muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week and to consider flexibility exercises within your regimen.

It is important to make your physical activity or activities fun as this will assist you to keep motivated and to make them a regular part of your daily life. You can begin being more physically active today including using the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the tram or bus a stop earlier or park on the far side of the shopping or supermarket car park.

Before starting an exercise program:

  • Have a check-up with your doctor and discuss your exercise plan.
  • If you are unsure of how to begin being physical activity speak to your doctor about a referral to an exercise physiologist. An exercise physiologist is a university qualified allied health professional that specialises in physical activity programs for people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes. An exercise physiologist may be able to help you by providing you with education, advice, support and an exercise regimen suitable and enjoyable for you.
  • During exercise, stop and rest if you experience pain or discomfort. Make sure that you have this checked out by your doctor before you resume further exercise.
  • Carry some form of identification on you in case you are injured or feel unwell.
  • If you take certain diabetes medications or insulin that can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose level), always carry jelly beans or glucose tablets with you in case your blood glucose level drops too low. If you experience hypoglycaemia stop and treat it immediately and discuss this with your doctor or diabetes educator. If you are unsure if your medication will cause hypoglycaemia ask your Doctor or Diabetes Educator.
  • Always wear good quality, well fitting, closed-in footwear as recommended by your podiatrist.

Information resources

NDSS information sheets

Diabetes SA offers a range of NDSS information sheets to download, covering:

  • Understanding diabetes
  • Managing diabetes
  • Diabetes & related health
  • Diabetes & emotional health
  • Diabetes & lifestyle

Click here to see the list of all information sheets.


Diabetes SA resources

Diabetes SA produces a number of publications and brochures that can help you manage your diabetes, including:

  • Goals of management
  • Diabetes and medications
  • Diabetes in the workplace
  • Pictorial guides

Click here to find out more. 

IDF Empowerment Booklet

IDF (International Diabetes Federation) has developed a resource 'Living with Diabetes: I Can do it! A patient empowerment booklet'. It is available in 12 languages, including English.

This booklet can help you to find answers to the following questions:

  • IDF-empowerment-bookletWhat is your role and what tasks are yours in diabetes treatment?
  • Whad does "empowerment" mean?
  • What are the basic issues you should pay attention to, in your diabetes treatment and care?
  • How can you work together with your health care professionals and your community to improve your overall care?

Click here to download the resource. Please note that this information booklet is intended as a guide only. It should not replace individual medical advice and if you have any concerns about your health or further questions, you should raise them with your doctor.

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