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Get tested, modify lifestyle, achieve better control

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Diabetes is a silent killer and all adults between 40 and 59 years old are urged to get tested. Because of the nature of the disease, one in two adults with diabetes is undiagnosed.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, in 2015, some 415 million people across the world were reported to be living with diabetes. It is having a devastating impact on the Caribbean, which has double the global rate of the disease.{{more}}

Yesterday was World Diabetes Day, celebrated this year under the theme “Eyes on Diabetes”, which encourages people to get tested, with a special emphasis on having one’s eyes checked. Adults should get screened, so that they would know their status early and be in a position to take corrective action before uncontrolled blood sugars do too much damage and the eyes should be checked for complications in diabetes, which can cause blindness if not detected.

One should not wait on symptoms to get tested, but generally, they include excessive thirst, acute hunger even after eating, blurry vision, itchy skin and chronic yeast infections in women.

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease cause the majority of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the region. In some countries, as many as one in four adults are living with the illness and women in the region are 60 per cent more likely to have diabetes than men. 

The situation is clearly reaching crisis proportions in the Caribbean and on an individual, community, national and regional level, we need to do more to ensure that we reduce the incidence of people being diagnosed with diabetes and help those already diagnosed to properly control their sugars. In addition to blindness, uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.

The risk factors for diabetes include family history, age, gender and ethnicity, which we have no control over. However, there are also modifiable risk factors related to lifestyle choices, in terms of diet, physical activity, consumption of alcohol and obesity.

We need to reduce our consumption of refined carbohydrates like white flour, rice and pasta and cut out altogether those popular carbonated soft drinks, which are nothing more than sugar and water. What about substituting breadfruit for bread and ground provisions for rice and macaroni?

We are also not moving as much as we used to and in the Caribbean, a significant number of people, particularly women, are obese. Many people are not aware that just by losing weight, one significantly reduces one’s risk of diabetes, and if already a diabetic, control of sugar levels is much easier after weight loss.

So, as we go forward, we make an urgent plea to our people to make better lifestyle choices – exercise regularly, eat smaller, healthier meals and get lots of rest.

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