Munster rugby player Ronan O’Mahony with his dad Gerry O’Mahony
DIABETES Ireland is one of Munster Rugby’s official charities for this year, but the cause is particularly close to the heart of one player whose dad is coping with the condition.
Gerry O’Mahony, the father of Munster player Ronan O’Mahony, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in his early 50s.
Now 62, the insurance broker mainly manages the condition naturally, and advocates a healthy lifestyle as a way to prevent the condition from progressing further.
“I’m diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic, and for most of my 10 years [with diabetes] I have been able to keep it under control with diet and exercise,” he said.
“We were always health-conscious, and I had two fantastic boys that kept me alive in those years because they were great sporty boys, so I had to keep myself on my toes with them, on pitches and at training,” added Gerry.
Gerry grew up watching his Type 1 diabetic brother having to use insulin injections, but he himself has only needed the help of tablets once.
After a car accident a number of years ago, his activity levels slowed down, and diabetes tablets were prescribed to prevent the progression of the condition.
Although always having lived a healthy lifestyle, Gerry says that a good diet has been key in his approach to his condition.
He starts the day with fibre-filled cereal and fresh fruit. Small changes, such as forgoing sugar in tea or coffee and avoiding alcohol if possible, have also helped him to keep the diabetes under control.
The other leg of his approach is exercise, and Gerry regularly attends the gym. He also tracks his movements on a Fitbit watch, which counts steps, compiles patterns and which Gerry finds useful for “creating awareness” about his own activity levels.
Mid-West regional development officer with Diabetes Ireland, dietician Pauline Dunne, said: “Diabetes is a lifelong condition caused by a lack, or insufficiency, of insulin.
“Insulin acts like a key to open the doors into your cells, letting sugar in.
“In diabetes, the pancreas makes too little insulin to enable all the sugar in your blood to get into your muscles and other cells to produce energy. If sugar can’t get into the cells to be used, it builds up in the bloodstream, so diabetes is characterised by high blood sugar levels,” she said.
“Type 1 diabetes tends to occur in childhood or early adult life, and always requires treatment with insulin injections. It is caused by the body’s own immune system destroying the insulin-making cells of the pancreas.
“Type 2 diabetes usually develops slowly in adulthood. It is progressive and can sometimes be treated with diet and exercise, but more often Type 2 diabetes may require antidiabetic medicine or insulin injections,” she added.
Although some people have a higher risk for the condition, up to 40 percent of diagnoses for Type 2 could be prevented with healthy diet and weight management, according to Diabetes Ireland.
A further 40 percent may delay the onset of the condition with alterations to their diet and healthy activities to curb weight gain.
Higher risk people include those with a family history of diabetes and those with high blood pressure or cholesterol. Risk also increases with age.
Thirst and frequent urination are some of the most common symptoms of the onset of Type 2 diabetes.