I recently joined the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago (DATT), and while I’m not diabetic, my maternal grandmother died of complications of diabetes when I was 14 months old. My commitment to making a difference in the fight against diabetes was birthed by the fact that it’s one of the major lifestyle diseases in my family. Though I don’t remember my grand mom, I have countless stories about her “Madea type” spirit, which contributed to the loss of both her limbs, a year part. She subsequently died 2 months after the 2nd limb was surgically removed.
It is my understanding that she was rebellious, which can also be classified as being in denial/suffering from depression, since she was a very active person. It isn’t easy for most to be diagnosed with a lifestyle disease. One of the most common things to set in is depression, and persons become depressed about the changes they need to make.
The Call to “Save your Limbs”
DATT held its 22nd Annual Symposium on June 23, with the theme “A Holistic Approach to Diabetes Management”. The featured speaker was the Honourable Minister of Health, and in his address he highlighted the thought process behind the “Fight the Fat” Campaign – to combat obesity – which would help prevent many lifestyle diseases from occurring. He also made a new call to “Save your Limbs”, another critical spin on preventing or fighting this disease.
It brought joy to my heart to hear the Minister’s speech, and I know most present would have felt the same way. He reiterated the fact that proper foot care would prevent/eliminate a great number of amputations. The current statistic on persons with diabetic complications is 1 in 8, especially over age 45.
Changes that need to occur when Diabetes is discovered
- Diet – It is critical to review what you eat and how much of it you tend to consume. Visit a dietician to be properly guided. For those seeking Public Health Care, there is usually a dietician attached to the hospital and most times once diagnosed, you are assigned one to start planning a healthy life; make use of this person’s expertise.
- Exercise – If it wasn’t part of your regular regime, it should be instituted immediately! It is advised by experts that your routine should be at least 30 minutes, 5 times per week. This is to prevent/reduce obesity, while ensuring good health and well-being.
- Foot Care – Inspect and moisturise your feet daily. Having regular foot maintenance done (monthly) is important.
- General Care – Routine visits to the doctor should be part of your 3-month to 6-month schedule.
- Monitoring and Control – Your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Heeding Advice/Instructions – Listen to and follow the home care directives given by your primary care physician/nutritionist/diabetic educator/podiatrist/chiropodist/foot health practitioner.
- Take your Medication – If tablets, insulin or therapy is prescribed, please take it. This is to regulate/improve your condition. In all things being consistent is critical.
- Journaling – Maintain a medical journal, noting any changes in appearance or feelings in the body, and also noting your sugar/pressure/cholesterol levels, along with medications/treatments taken. This approach helps you see your progress or regression, and makes it easier for practitioners to ascertain whether or not changes need to be made in medication dosages or treatments.
- Positive Attitude – Try to maintain a positive outlook. Anytime this isn’t done, depression sets in. Seek professional help if you don’t quickly bounce back from this mode as it can be detrimental. Many diabetics lose limbs and die largely due to depression.
- Education – This is key, as it sums up the other points listed above. If you and those around you aren’t educated about this disease, many fundamental errors would be made that can easily be prevented.
Other Noteworthy Facts made about the Disease
Minister Khan in his discourse also pointed out that diabetes occurs mainly in Indo-Trinidadians, because of the fact that they tend to cook with a lot of oil. On the other hand, he noted, Afro-Trinidadians were more prone to hypertension due to their heavy use of salt. It was also stated that Diabetic Neuropathy (nerve problems) affects up to 50% of those persons with diabetes.
The President of the Diabetes Association also quoted some alarming statistics; over 55% of the population is overweight. In the US 1 in 12 persons have diabetes, but in T&T, the ratio is 1 in 7 persons. As well, everyday there is an amputation … with 20% of these persons going into a depression and dying within 2 years.
The First Lady, Her Excellency Dr. Jean Ramjohn-Richards, who is the patron of the Association, indicated that diabetes and its complications are the 3rd cause of death in males, and the 2nd cause of death in females. She stressed the fact that education about the disease is critical.
The Diabetes Association is an organisation I am encouraging diabetics, relatives, caregivers and health professionals to join in order to get educated and aid in the fight against, and to curb the epidemic. Meanwhile, to my fellow members of DATT, I’m endorsing the Honourable Minister’s call to become proactive and “Save your Limbs”!
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!