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One in Four Vincentians at Risk for Diabetes – Thompson

One in Four Vincentians at Risk for Diabetes – Thompson
Dr Jerrol Thompson an infectious disease specialist


Diabetes is one of the most rapidly growing diseases in the world, and in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), it is estimated that one quarter of the population is at risk for the disease, while about 7000 Vincentians are already living with it.

Dr Jerrol Thompson, speaking on We FM on Wednesday said that most populations have about seven per cent diabetics.

“It used to be 3 or 4 per cent. It’s been jumping, it’s been doubling,” Thompson said while stressing that this is a troubling statistic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
Going further, Thompson said that issues arise because many of the 7000 persons here who are believed to be diabetic, do not know that they are.

An example of this is Murray’s Village resident Yvonne Jones who was admitted to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) last month after she had an adverse reaction to sanitiser spayed on her hands.

The 55-year-old woman told SEARCHLIGHT that she learnt for the first time that she was diabetic when she was admitted to the hospital.

Thompson said there are many persons like Jones who are walking around “with a smile on their face not even knowing they have diabetes.”

Giving additional statistics, the internal medicine specialist said there is also something called pre-diabetes which affects about 3 per cent of the population.

“Imagine about 2000 to 3000 persons have pre-diabetes. Their blood sugar is a little high, but not enough to say they have full fledged diabetes and in a matter of two to three years, they will become full blown diabetics, some know it and some don’t know it,” Thompson noted.

He added also that about 12 to 15 per cent of the population have a resistance to insulin and while their blood sugar is normal, “the insulin ain’t really working”.

Insulin resistance is the name given to when cells of the body don’t respond properly to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance is the driving factor that leads to type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and prediabetes.

“Imagine in a population of 110,000 people, 12 to 15 per cent of the population being insulin resistant and in a matter of 8 to 10 years they may become pre-diabetic,” Thompson pointed out.

He said if there are 7000 Vincentians with diabetes, 3000 with pre-diabetes and 12 to 15 % with insulin resistance, that comes up to, 22 to 25 per cent, one-quarter of our population who are at risk.

“That is a lot, I am talking about one in four persons,” Thompson noted.

Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves and Thompson said may foods have ingredients that raise the blood sugar and persons are not aware of this.

He said high fructose corn syrup is contained in many foods and persons must look at labels for foods that don’t have high sugar content.

“They will kill you,” Thompson said bluntly.

The WHO noted that in 2016, an estimated 1.6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes.