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An A to Z of diabetes

Feeling confused about the diabetes lingo you need to understand? We’ve outlined some of the most common – and unusual – terms for you, so that you can understand everything from carb counting to diabetes insipidus. Let us know if you feel there’s something missing, by email or on Diabetic South Africans on Facebook!

a to z including diabetes insipidus

Blood sugar

Blood sugar (or blood glucose) refers to the number you get when you test with a glucometer or CGM (continuous glucose monitor). The goal is for balance: not too low (hypoglycemia), not too high (hyperglycemia). The golden number for blood sugar readings is 7.0. Here are some helpful tips for blood sugar testing.

Carbohydrate counting

Carb counting lets people with diabetes eat a varied diet. Each carbohydrate (which includes dairy and fruit as well as starch and sugars) has a specific value that can be counted to determine how much insulin to take, or how many carbs make up a meal. Read all about how to do carb counting here.

Diabetic diet

There is no specific ‘diabetic diet’, but all diabetics should eat lots of fresh vegetables, choose wholegrains and eat good-quality proteins, and as little sugar and refined / fried / fatty / junk food as possible. Everything in moderation! Here are some diabetes diet guidelines.

Diabetes inspidus

Diabetes insipidus happens when a person’s body can’t regulate fluids properly. Diabetes insipidus is caused by a hormonal abnormality, so it isn’t actually related to diabetes – although the symptoms (extreme thirst and needing to pee a lot) can be similar.

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is the umbrella term for all the different types of diabetes – Type 1 and 2 diabetes, as well as gestational diabetes and even prediabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes (GD) occurs when a woman has high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Like Type 2 diabetes, it can often be controlled with diet and exercise. Find out all about gestational diabetes here.


The HbA1c blood test is important: you can get one at your clinic or pharmacy every 3 to 6 months. This test give you one number that will tell you how good (on average) your blood sugar control has been. The goal is 7% or below. Read more info about the HbA1c here.


Ketones are acids that build up in the blood and urine when your body doesn’t have enough insulin. They can lead to a serious condition called ketoacidosis and from there to diabetic coma. If you’re in good control, you don’t have to worry about ketones. Here’s what you need to know about ketoacidosis.

Meal plans

Meal plans are very helpful when you are first diagnosed because they give you an idea of how you should be eating. We have a range of free meal plans to download: budget, low carb, vegetarian, Western and more. Take a look at our meal plan options here.


Prediabetes is the stage before Type 2 diabetes – when you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It is completely reversible, and if you are aware of the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes, you may be able to avoid prediabetes completely. Here’s how to recognise the risk factors.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.