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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Half of people with diabetes don’t even know they have it

The World Health Organization defines diabetes as a chronic condition that develops when the body either generates insufficient insulin or cannot properly use the insulin that is produced.

A hormone called insulin controls blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled diabetes frequently causes hyperglycemia, also known as high blood glucose or raised blood sugar, which over time can seriously harm many different physiological systems, including the neurons and blood vessels.

Diabetes is the second-leading cause of death in women and the second-largest cause of death overall in South Africa, where it affects more than 4.2 million people, meaning one in nine people have the disease.

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Nicole Jennings, the spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, says South Africa is the epicentre of type 2 diabetes on the continent, because of its high obesity rates.

We are the most obese country in sub-Saharan Africa and among the most obese nations in the world, according to a study published in the Lancet. Obesity increases our risk of developing several fatal and disabling conditions, such as heart disease. Some 90% of T2D patients are categorised as either overweight or obese, which is another major contributing factor to the disease.

Diabetes is a significant contributor to secondary ailments such as renal disease, heart attacks, strokes, erectile dysfunction, blindness, and lower limb amputation.

The good news is that diabetes is treatable and its effects can be delayed and prevented by following a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and getting regular checks for problems.

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“While T2D is more common in older adults, the increase in the number of children with obesity has led to more diabetes cases in younger people too,” said Jennings.

Other risk factors for T2D include age (beng over 45); having a close family relative with the disease; a diet high in fat, sugar, and salt; high blood pressure; and elevated cholesterol levels.

She adds: “What is alarming is that about 50% of people that have diabetes now don’t even know they have it. This means closer to 8 or 9 million people in South Africa are living with diabetes than the predicted 4.2 million.”

The figure could be even higher. Approximately 25% of South Africans have abnormal glucose levels, which means 15 million people will eventually develop diabetes.

Diabetes in SA should be treated with a long-term strategy that emphasises prevention and remission. She points out that the Department of Health already spends almost 12% of its entire budget on treating diabetes.

A range of treatment options is available to treat T2D. These typically include:

Following a healthy diet: Healthcare professionals should work out a diet plan for you by adjusting your calorie intake to get you to your healthy weight goal. Eating smaller portions and including more high-fibre foods, like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are key. Reducing your consumption of sugar and processed carbohydrates is crucial

Taking regular exercise: regular physical activity will help you to lose and/or maintain a healthy weight, plus it’ll help to regulate blood sugar levels.

Jennings says measuring blood glucose regularly is another important step in managing and preventing complications related to T2D.

“As with most diseases, early detection is crucial to prevent complications. Too many people are ignoring the obvious warning signs and may be setting themselves up for serious and debilitating illness down the line.”

A normal blood glucose range (while fasting) should be within the range of 3.9 to 5.5 mmol/L. Anything higher could be a sign of pre-diabetes or diabetes.

“If you’re pre-diabetic or have diabetes, arm yourself with the right information and get the care you need. Making lifestyle changes by cutting out unhealthy habits can yield significant health benefits, and may even put your diabetes in remission.”

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.


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