Diabetes – the dreaded disease

According to the National Department of Health, more than half of South African women are overweight or obese, with the statistic for black women being as high as 60%.

Some of the risk factors for developing diabetes include:

•Being aged 35 or over

•Being overweight

•Having a family history of diabetes

•Having given birth to a baby that weighed over 4kg at birth, or having gestational diabetes during pregnancy

•Having high cholesterol or other fats in the blood

•Having high blood pressure or heart disease

Dr Kuven Naidu, head of the East Rand physician’s group elaborated on diabetes as well as the symptoms one should look out for.

“People usually present with initial symptoms of thirst, frequency of urination, weight loss, blurred vision amongst other symptoms.”

Naidu said when looking to diagnose diabetes, blood needs to be taken to see if the person has a fasting glucose of over 7mmol/l; a random glucose of over 11.1 or an HbA1c greater than six per cent.

“It can affect anyone. The national prevalence of diabetes in 2012 in people over the age of 15 years was estimated to be nine per cent.” he said.

Naidu said people of any age can get diabetes and that having the correct diet was extremely important.

“Avoiding foods high in refined carbohydrates and opting for carbs found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit are important.” he said.

Depending on the type and severity of the diabetes, medical options include both oral tablets, insulin therapy and other injectables.

There are different types of diabetes with notable differences.

Type 1 Diabetes – this is when the Beta cell from the pancreas (which produces insulin) is destroyed leading to insulin deficiency (i.e the body does not have insulin and so the blood sugar drops)

Type 2 Diabetes – this includes insulin resistance with mild or major insulin secretion deficits. (The body does not respond appropriately to the effect of insulin and over time, less insulin is produced)

Other types – various other causes which may result in diabetes include endocrine problems, drugs, genetics etc.

Hyperglycaemia is first detected in pregnancy.

“Diabetes causes multi-organ complications especially if it is poorly controlled. It can affect the eyes, kidneys, heart and blood vessels to name a few,” said Naidu.

“Over time it causes damage to these organs which is often irreversible.”

“This is what leads to heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure or blindness to name just a few of the more dreaded complications.”

According to Naidu, Type 1 diabetes can develop into a life threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which may result in coma and death.

Naidu said the number of deaths from diabetes worldwide exceeded the deaths from HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria in 2015.

“Obesity is a major problem and is a massive contributor to the rising number of people with diabetes,” he said.

“We need to ensure we eat healthily and exercise often to curb this phenomenon.”

“The old adage remains true: prevention is better than cure.”

Also read: Your local clinic is here for you

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Khutso Maphatsoe

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