Diabetes – Prevention and Care

My neighbour called me for my birthday a few days ago, and as the conversation went on we reflected on the fact that though we are slim figured women, we are starting to feel the extra weight in the stomach, hips and legs; as we closely approach the big 30. While I read in a magazine that 30 is the new 20, I surely don’t feel like 20 anymore! Previously, I didn’t feel like I needed to exercise, but I am realising more and more that exercise is key in maintaining the mind, body and soul.

Today is World Diabetes Day, and to most including myself, the day or the lead up to it had no relevance. However, with our newly formed alliance with the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago (DATT), I’ve realised further how much awareness is required to educate both diabetics and non-diabetics about the dangers of not following a structured meal plan, exercising, and generally taking care of the body.

Juvenile Diabetes

It was my plan to address this topic, so I was quite heartened when an article appeared in last Sunday Express from the Minister of Health regarding obesity. The campaign name, ‘Fight the Fat’ which many online argued was not suitable, since it held a derogatory connotation, could be debated either way; however, the facts are startling. Another decision taken by the said Minister was to refuse funding from a fast food franchise for the paediatric ward at the hospital; again another controversial decision, but I do share his sentiments.

Many parents focus on their health and allow their children to eat anything they desire…WRONG! Take control to ensure the health of your child in later years, give them the right foundation. Don’t be absent minded saying that they will lose the thickness as they grow; instead, put healthy foods in front of them.

Juvenile diabetes or Type 1 diabetes as it is more commonly called, is touted as being higher than all other severe chronic diseases in children. Most times it runs in families, and some children are born with it or develop it in the tender or teenage years. Immediate relatives like parents or siblings having it, makes your risk factor much greater, even in the case of grandparents.

What about eating habits?

In the Curepe area alone, there are so many fast food outlets it’s difficult to decide on eating healthy; a short drive to St. Augustine or Tunapuna…hmmm, more fast food. We are a fast food society, and with crazy schedules many persons hardly cook anymore. Cooking in a lot of households is reduced to Sundays, and even on this day, a lot of people opt for the casual or fine dining experience.

Therefore, obesity is on a steady rise, and it adds up to the extremely high numbers in lifestyle diseases resulting in early deaths. Another important fact is the high levels of chemicals in some fresh produce and meats; the processed sweeteners, taste enhancers in foods, drinks, and the ever popular snacks.

When one considers the country’s food import bill, it’s time to consider resuming the grow box (kitchen garden) concept that the older heads had, that kept them alive to their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. For those with no time to maintain such, ensure that the fresh produce grocer/meat depot you purchase from has quality items. Also, read labels on all items to review the “Nutrition Facts”. This includes the amount of calories, fat (saturated and trans), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, etc. It is stated that over 60% of all deaths in this country are as a result of cardiovascular diseases, strokes and cancer. Further, we have the highest rates in the Caribbean … I rest my case!

If I’m overweight, does it mean I will become diabetic?

NO! Being overweight or obese however is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Excessive weight can keep your body from producing and using insulin properly, and can also cause high blood pressure. A moderate diet and exercise can result in significant weight loss and can delay or possibly prevent type 2 diabetes.

Pre-diabetes vs. Borderline

If you have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet in the diabetic range, you are considered to be “pre-diabetic.” Progression to diabetes among those with “pre-diabetes” is not inevitable. Studies suggest that weight loss and increased physical activity among people with “pre-diabetes” could prevent or delay diabetes, and may even return blood glucose levels to normal.

There’s a thin line between pre-diabetes and borderline diabetes. And while some health care professionals state that persons can be borderline, the Diabetes Association along with another senior health care professional attached to the Chronic Non-Communicable Disease Unit of the Ministry of Health have both indicated that there is no borderline diabetes. It’s a pure case of the blood glucose level being normal or not. A slightly higher than normal range along with family history is what basically carries the title of “pre-diabetes or borderline” as we know it.




Prevention Tips

Changing lifestyle habits isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort for better health. Here are some simple tips to reduce your risk:

  • Know your diabetes risk – Assess your family medical history. Research the diseases your maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles have/had; do the same with your parents and siblings, and find out your blood type and theirs. This is a good start.
  • Manage your weight – Not everyone has a slim structure but for the big boned individual, being big boned and being obese are two different things.
  • Regular exercise/physical activity –This helps with regulating weight, reducing blood glucose levels, blood pressure levels and cholesterol. Reduce your sedentary time at your desk, television, computer and on your mobile phone. Get up and walk in between. At work use the stairs instead of the elevator where applicable, or get up from your desk to fetch something instead of asking it be passed to you. Drivers, park a little distance away if possible (once in a ‘secured’ parking facility), to increase your physical activity. Walking is best, so getting in about 30 minutes or more; 3 – 5 days per week is ideal.
  • Have a healthy/balanced diet – Reduce salt, saturated and trans fat intake; also limit your desserts. Consume more fruits and vegetables, especially raw vegetables. Eat more frequent, smaller portions, and desist from the late night snacking. Drink lots of water and have salad plain; the average salad dressing is fattening and depletes the healthy salad concept.
  • Limit alcohol consumption – The wheat in some alcoholic beverages lead to weight gain in the stomach area, and causes damage to some organs if done excessively.
  • Smoking – Predisposes us twice as much to many lifestyle diseases, and can cause certain organs to break down at a quicker rate.
  • Blood Pressure control – Manage your blood pressure levels; too high or too low can be dangerous to your health.
  • Visit your health care providers regularly – For persons with ailments/diseases every 3 – 6 months may be required. Foot maintenance – monthly is recommended for pedicures; and 6 weeks – 2 months for chiropodist/podiatrist/foot health practitioner care.

A few alterations in our lifestyle could make all the difference; contributing to delays or prevention of many lifestyle/chronic non-communicable diseases. As well, the burden on the health care system would be significantly reduced, making for a healthier country overall.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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