Diabetes, proclaimed as the silent killer
and the disease of civilization
is one of the largest burdens in the world.
14 November is World Diabetes Day –
do you know your number?
In the United States, billboards proclaim that diabetes is biggest cause of mortality worldwide – the silent killer. New Zealand proclaims that they are up there with the top four in terms of a soaring diabetes rate. Well, the bad news is that South Africa is not far behind. To put this into context, approximately 425 million people have diabetes in the world, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The estimated number in South Africa is approximately 4 million South Africans currently suffering from diabetes and 5 million estimated to have pre-diabetes. And the scary thing is that many people go undiagnosed and are unaware that they have pre-diabetes, or even diabetes.
Diabetes describes a group of metabolic diseases which cause high blood sugar levels. It can take up to 7 years for a person to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, because symptoms can go unrecognized, can be mild and may develop gradually. The result of this is that around 30% of people with Type 2 diabetes could have developed complications by the time they are diagnosed. Diabetes complications are generally serious and can include heart disease, stroke, blindness, amputations and kidney failure. Early diagnosis and correct treatment can avoid these complications.
So sit up and take note of possible, mild, often undetected symptoms. Do you have any of the following – blurred vision, dizziness, thirst, the frequent passing of urine, weight changes, skin infections, a lack of energy and tiredness? Managing diabetes means daily treatment, a healthy diet and lifestyle, regular monitoring and ongoing education.
Risk factors are age, obesity, family history of diabetes, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity. People of Indian descent have a gene pool that makes them unusually susceptible to diabetes.
90-95% of people who develop diabetes are Type 2, and over 80% of people with Type 2 are obese. The more overweight you are, the greater your risk of developing diabetes.
But let’s look at the bright side. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by a change in lifestyle. Get to your GP and request a fasting blood sugar test in order to diagnose diabetes early. If your number tops 7, you may be diagnosed as having diabetes. If you have a result that ranges between 5.6 and 7, this could indicate that you are in a pre-diabetic state.
If you are diagnosed with glucose intolerance or diabetes, ask to be referred to your local Diabetes Clinic who have the expertise to handle diabetes and will inform, educate and encourage you. They will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to manage your diabetes and will give you a glucometer to test your blood sugar.