Doctor’s Appointment | Sugar! The facts about diabetes
Claiming the lives of some 4,500 Jamaicans in 2006 alone, diabetes continues to plague the nation's people today.
Joining host Dr Sara Lawrence for episode three of Doctor's Appointment, Season Three, was diabetes expert Professor Michael Boyne, senior lecturer in endocrinology and metabolism at University of the West Indies, Mona, who debunked myths about the disease and offered sound advice for those affected by the illness.
Caused by a spike in blood-glucose levels, or excessive sugar in the blood, diabetes causes a person's body to have a delayed reaction to the hormone that regulates glucose, insulin. This disease is often hereditary, passed on through genes, brought on by lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise or stress level, related to a person's age or developed as a side effect of other drugs/medication.
Diabetes has two main types:
- Type 1 - called insulin-dependence or youth-onset diabetes, and Type 2, called adult onset/non-insulin dependent diabetes. Type 1 often affects children and young people, causing their insulin levels to drop to as low as zero and forcing them to rely on taking insulin for survival. Research shows that this condition has no gender preference as it affects both men and women equally.
- Type 2 - more commonly found in adults where insulin levels are inconsistent and oftentimes stem from lifestyle choices. Afflicting the lives of women more than men, type two is greatly attributed to weight gain as well.
Prof Boyne explains that the average Jamaican woman is heavier or bigger in size than the average Jamaican man, and so is more at risk. He goes on to explain that if a woman is age 45 and gaining weight, she has an even higher chance of developing diabetes.
Another form, gestational diabetes, happens in the middle of a woman's pregnancy, causing her to have rising sugar levels. Prof Boyne assures that this form only affects the mother and not the child.
Some common symptoms associated with diabetes include:
- Surging sugar levels
- Frequent urination
- Overeating coupled with rapid weight loss
- More infections
- Having cuts that either take longer to or don't heal
Prof Boyne says in some diabetics, the symptoms take longer to develop, while others may not show symptoms at all. The condition also has unique manifestations, for instance, if a woman gives birth to a baby that weighs more than nine pounds, she may be showing signs of this disease.
Diabetes also has the tendency to lead to other maladies or health risks, such as:
- heart attack
- the need for amputations
- kidney failure
Every part of the body is affected when someone has diabetes.
The appointment continued with Lurlene Less, chairperson of the Diabetic Association of Jamaica and managing director of the Renal Unit, who joined Dr Lawrence on set to relate her own experience with the disease.
Less has been living with Type 1 diabetes for some 30 years, having been diagnosed in her early 20s. She explains that she developed diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage resulting in severe pains in arms and legs.
Less was never overweight, but her mother has Type 2 diabetes and so inherited the traits of the condition genetically.
But to conquer her illness, Less says management is key. To remain on top of her health she must take a number of precautions, including testing her blood sugar levels regularly, eating on time, taking medication, doing an A1 test twice a year, along with exercise and other physical activities. Yet, for Less these few steps mean a more fulfilled life.
One of her main concerns is the number of people who outrightly deny they have the condition and so refuse to seek treatment. This can lead to persons deteriorating more quickly and running the risk of developing other maladies in the process.
Less further explains that women who have diabetes have a higher probability of having a high-risk pregnancy.
Prof Boyne joined the conversation with Less and Dr Lawrence to discuss treatment options for diabetics. Both guests suggest that persons living with the disease:
- Maintain a regular routine of monitoring their blood sugar levels
- Maintain healthy weight and diet
- Develop a manageable exercise regime
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce stress.
- Taking one of the more than 20 medications available to regulate insulin levels, or take insulin itself to maintain healthy blood-glucose levels.
The 6 p.m. Dr's Appointment Facebook live segment, season three's new feature, saw viewers talking directly with another of Jamaica's top consultants, Marshall Tulloch-Reid, Professor of Epidemiology and Endocrinology and Director of the Epidemiology Research Unit, Tropical Medicine Research Institute, The University of the West Indies.
As in all the appointments, the experts gave viewers practical advice, such as:
- read widely
- visit the Diabetic Association of Jamaica, where diabetics can find a team of supportive and qualified persons versed in diabetic education and training.
- diabetics are encouraged to learn the ABCs of diabetes, namely: A1c testing, blood pressure checking and cholesterol control.
Join us next week Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on TVJ and Facebook live at 6 p.m. when we look at a disease affecting 10 per cent of women worldwide, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Doctor's Appointment is a family and health-oriented television programme that is produced by Maverick Communications Limited.