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Cruel Fact: Diabetes Affects More Young People In Africa

Doctor testing patient for Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common non-communicable disorders today. It is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by high levels of blood glucose. Symptoms associated with the disease as frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased appetite, weight loss among others.

Making diabetes prevention a priority if you’re at increased risk, is a big deal. For instance, if you’re overweight or you have a family history of the disease. Everyone should seek relevant information about diabetes and adopt healthy lifestyles to prevent the disease. People already living with the disease should also embrace available management options to achieve control of their condition.

Diabetes prevention is as basic as eating more healthfully, becoming more physically active and losing a few extra kilos. Making few simple changes in your lifestyle now may help avoid the serious health complications such as nerve, kidney and heart damage.

Recently, at a media round-table organised by Nigeria Health Online recently, to kick off activities marking the 2016 World Health Day in Nigeria, the Minister of Health Prof. Issac Adewole, recognized that diabetes is gradually becoming an epidemic worldwide and Nigeria remains one of the countries with a large number of people living with diabetes.

Adewole, who was represented by the Chief Medical Director of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, said Nigerians should be aware that diabetes is essentially a lifestyle disease and can be prevented simply by adopting a healthy lifestyle which involves good diets, regular exercise and health consciousness.

“Diabetes is a silent killer, as a result of which many people in the country do not know they have the disease and continue to live without taking necessary precaution. There’s a great need for everyone in the country to join hands and prevent diabetes while those already diagnosed should adhere strictly to their doctor’s recommendations on control measures“he urged. Calling for more awareness about diabetes in Nigeria, Medical Director, Roche Nigeria, which co-sponsored the round-table in collaboration with Rainbow Specialist Hospital, Lekki, Lagos, Dr. Jeanne Coulibaly noted: “Good health is important for everyone to be productive and be able to develop the country.” One person dies from diabetes every 60 seconds worldwide. Globally, about 347 million people have diabetes in the world and there is an emerging global epidemic of the disease due to increases in overweight, including obesity and physical inactivity.

To give insight into the burden of diabetes, the World Health Organisation Coordinator, Lagos, Dr. Omoniyi Abidoye, predicted that diabetes will become the 7th leading cause of death in the world by 2030, and deaths from the condition would also rise by more than 50 percent in the next 10 years. A consultant endocrinologist, a specialist physician who diagnoses and treats diseases related to the glands, Dr. Afoke Isiavwe, also advocated for massive public enlightenment to draw attention to the growing problem and rapid increase of diabetes in the country and the world in general. Isiavwe who is also Medical Director, Rainbow Specialist Medical Centre, Lekki, Lagos, emphasised the need for government to improve access to good diabetes care in the country to prevent some complications now being experienced by people with diabetes in the country. 

Most people may not notice these symptoms early, which is why the condition is often referred to as a silent killer. Also many patients do not seek appropriate management so they can adopt control measures until they begin to develop complications which could sometimes be deadly. “Poor management may lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves,” she disclosed. Sadly, while most people with diabetes in developed countries are people above retirement, the disease affects people in the productive age between 35 and 64 in Nigeria and other developing countries. But more Nigerians need not die from diabetes. Isiavwe affirmed: “knowledge exists to reverse this trend through targeted prevention and appropriate care. When diabetes is uncontrolled, it has dire consequences for health and well-being. It is clear that a diabetes epidemic is also an epidemic of complications.” 

In a presentation entitled “Why is Structured Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose, SMBG, so important?” , the Acu-Chek Product Manager, Roche Products Limited Mrs Folashade Olufemi-Ajayi, said people living with diabetes should be involved in the management of their condition so as to achieve good control of their blood sugar and prevent the numerous complications associated with disease. She said self-monitoring of blood sugar by patients increases (patients’) motivation to keep blood glucose within target. Self-monitoring enables patients to achieve appropriate metabolic control, avoiding hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and reducing the likelihood of developing long-term complications of hyperglycemia such as blindness or renal failure. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its first Global Report on diabetes launched on April 7 as part of activities marking the 2016 World Health Day, noted: “Good management using a standardized protocol can potentially prevent complications and premature death from diabetes using: a small set of generic medicines; interventions to promote healthy lifestyles; patient education to facilitate self-care; regular screening for early detection and treatment of complications through a multidisciplinary team. 

What you should do to prevent diabetes

Get more physical activity: There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise can help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar and boost your sensitivity to insulin — which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes, but the greater benefit comes from a fitness program that includes both. 

Eat plenty of fibre: Foods high in fibre include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Fibre in your diet may help you reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control, lower your risk of heart disease and promote weight loss by helping you feel full. 

Go for whole grains: Whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your grains whole grains. Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat, including bread, pasta products and many cereals. Lose extra weight: If you’re overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every kilo you lose can improve your health, and you may be surprised by how much. 

Make healthier choices: Low-carb diets, the glycemic index diet or other fad diets may help you lose weight at first, but their effectiveness at preventing diabetes isn’t known nor are their long-term effects. And by excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients. Instead, think variety and portion control as part of an overall healthy-eating plan. 

What your doctor should do

If you’re older than 45 and your weight is normal, ask your doctor if diabetes testing is appropriate for you. Go for blood glucose screening if you’re 45 or older and overweight; you’re younger than 45 and overweight with one or more additional risk factors for type 2 diabetes — such as a sedentary lifestyle or a family history of diabetes. Share your concerns about diabetes prevention with your doctor. He/ she will offer additional suggestions based on your medical history or other factors. What government should do: Urgently begin public enlightenment about the huge prevalence of diabetes in the country, its grave consequences and the need for action and involvement by everyone. The Federal Ministry of Health also needs to include blood glucose testing in the standard operating procedure of health services just like blood pressure testing for all patients visiting the hospital. Similarly, urgent formulation of policies designed to provide better access for effective management of diabetes in Nigeria. To this end, diabetes-related drugs and devices should be subsidized and duty-free.

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