Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Take diabetes seriously – Less

Published:Wednesday | November 4, 2020 | 12:12 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

Diabetes is a potentially life-threatening illness, which must be taken seriously. Diabetes is the second-leading cause of death for Jamaicans under the age of 70 years. Often referred to as ‘sugar’, the disease impairs the body’s ability to use food.

The hormone insulin, which is made in the pancreas, is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. In people with diabetes, either the pancreas does not make insulin or the body cannot use insulin properly.

Without insulin, sugar, the body’s main energy source, builds up in the blood. The cause of diabetes is a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

Uncontrolled diabetes can eventually lead to other health problems as well, such as vision loss, kidney failure, and amputations.

The Diabetes Association of Jamaica is using November to bring awareness to diabetes in Jamaica. Chairperson of the association, Lurline Less, said with the current impact of the coronavirus pandemic, most persons with the disease are not getting the treatment that they need.

“Many persons with the disease are not coming to the clinics. We have seen a 20 per cent reduction in the number of patients since the pandemic. As part of the month-long awareness, we will be going into some of the communities and reaching out to these patients, and giving them the necessary healthcare they need,” Less said.

“We will be observing all protocols of the Ministry of Health as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic. Persons are afraid to come out, so we will be going in to them,” she said.

The activities for the month will be held under the global theme, ‘Diabetes the Nurses Make a Difference’ and will also include sensitisation in the media landscape via radio interviews and a virtual webinar with the Ministry of Health.

“Diabetes cannot be cured, but the earlier you know that you have it, you can have it treated and lead a normal and productive life,” Less said.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. It occurs when the body does not produce insulin. Approximately 10 per cent of all diabetes cases are type 1.

Type 2 diabetes, which is on the increase worldwide, is caused principally by poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle. In the past three decades, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in countries, more so in middle and low-income countries and is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.

According to Less, overweight and obese people have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with a healthy body weight. “People with a lot of visceral fat, also known as central obesity, belly fat, or abdominal obesity, are especially at risk,” Less said.

She said persons should eat a healthy diet, including reducing sugar intake and having smaller meals and avoid heavy starches such as rice and yam before bedtime, and choose vegetables instead.

She also recommends regular physical activity, such as brisk 15 to 20-minute walks; using the stairs instead of the elevator; and getting off the bus before reaching your destination and walking the rest of the way.

“As you exercise, the tissues and the muscles need energy, and so they literally pull from the blood vessels the energy and the nutrition that it needs,” she said.

In addition to healthy eating and exercise, persons with more serious cases of diabetes may also need medication and insulin injection.

Symptoms of diabetes include: increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss or gain, fatigue, blurred vision, wounds that heal slowly, nausea, and skin infections.

Diabetes Day in Jamaica will be celebrated on November 14.

To contact the Diabetes Association of Jamaica, visit their offices at 1 Downer Avenue, off Old Hope Road and Lady Musgrave Road, or call 876-927-6774 or 876-397-6021

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com