In the United States, billboards proclaim that diabetes is the silent killer and the biggest cause of mortality worldwide. 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.
According to the World Health Organisation, British researchers have found that 346 million people worldwide have diabetes. It is predicted that this number will triple in the next 15 years.
This is a disease of civilization – and is set to become the single largest burden on the world health care system. Many nations are going to find it very difficult to cope with the consequences. There has been an absolute explosion of diabetes throughout the world, and developing countries like South Africa are among the worst hit.
The research study – which was financed by the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – analysed blood from 2.7 million participants from around the world over a three-year period.
Diabetes SA says that research shows that approximately 4.6 million people in South Africa have diabetes. The scary part is, that 85% of these people are undiagnosed and unaware that they have the condition.
According to Sister Karen Pike of the Diabetes Clinic at Mediclinic Constantiaberg, the age group most likely to be affected is 40-64.
Symptoms can be mild and almost undetected, so sit up and take note – 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, amongst others.
Risk factors are age, obesity, family history of diabetes, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity. Although all groups are affected, those most at risk are the black community who are undergoing rapid lifestyle and cultural changes, and people of Indian descent who 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.
“Like high blood pressure, diabetes may remain ‘silent’ for years without causing any symptoms whatsoever. It’s detectable by a blood sugar test. Diabetes is serious. It almost triples your risk of heart disease, is responsible for half of all amputations and a quarter of the cases of kidney failure, and is the leading cause of blindness in many parts of the world,” says Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital.
But here’s the good news – 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.
Diabetes SA are lobbying for better facilities, cheaper medication and better services. They are doing their utmost to influence the food industry to make important changes.
The 14th of November is World Diabetes Day. On the 16th and 17th November, the Mediclinic Constantiaberg are providing free blood glucose testing. If you live outside of this area, you can contact your nearest Mediclinic to enquire when and where this is taking place.
And, this year, the Global Diabetes Run/Walk in Cape Town is set in and around the rejuvenated recreational area of Cape Town’s new landmark, the Cape Town Stadium and the Green Point Urban Walk. Participate in the 5km and 10km run and walk – from 07h00 to 12h00 – on Saturday 19th November 2011. For further information on this and run/walks taking place in other centres, visit www.diabetessa.co.za.
Diabetes is too serious to ignore – know your number!