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Diabetes Presentation for First Diabetes Conference Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 November 2012 00:00

Sharon FraserImagine 366 million people worldwide or 8.3% of the adult population is estimated to have diabetes in 2011.  If the trend continues by 2030, some 552 million people or one adult in ten will have diabetes.
Closer to home, an estimated 37.7 million  people with diabetes, live in this region and by 2030, the number is expected to increase by more than a third to 51.3 million.  Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Mexico have the highest prevalence of diabetes in the region.

The truth is too many lives in this world have been cut short by chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, hypertension and of course diabetes.  Globally, 3.2 million deaths are attributable to diabetes every year.  One in every twenty is attributable to diabetes or 8700 deaths every day and six deaths every minute.  I can go further in telling you that at least one in ten deaths among adults between 35 to 64 years old is attributable to diabetes.  And three quarters of death among people age 35 years are due to diabetes.

Clearly, one can see that this is no longer happening in high income countries as is evident in the growing trend in our small country, Belize. The last known statistics, which came from the Ministry of Health and PAHO indicate that 13.1% of our adult population is living with diabetes.  This percentage translates to approximately 45,000 Belizeans between the ages 20 to 79 years old are living with diabetes.  It must be noted that a significant number of our people living with diabetes are unaware of their condition.  And recently there has also been a rise in the number of cases of children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes.

So what is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not convert sugar into energy properly.  The body produces this sugar from the food we eat.  We get energy when the sugar enters the cells of our body.  To enter the cells the sugar needs the help of a substance called insulin.  The body makes insulin but sometimes it fails to do so.  This happen mostly in children.  About one in ten diabetics are of this type.  The other 8 or 9 out of 10 diabetics are adult.  In most adults, enough insulin is produced but the insulin and sugar are unable to enter the cells.  People who are overweight see their cells not allowing enough insulin and sugar to enter the cells.  So the sugar accumulates in the blood and when it becomes very high some spill over into the urine.

Without the right amount of energy, you may feel tired, weak and drowsy.  You will feel very thirsty, urinate often and begin to lose weight.  You may not be able to fight off infection well. Your cuts bruises will heal slowly if at all.  Your eyes may start to give problems and then you have trouble seeing well.  Your skin may itch or you get a tingling, creepy, crawling feeling all over your body.  Your chances of getting heart attacks and strokes increase.  These are just some of the symptoms and complications of diabetes.

While diabetes does not discriminate, the burden of the diabetes epidemic is noticeably affecting more persons who are from the lower socioeconomic class.  They display high levels of sedentary lifestyle and are normal overweight or obese.  It is estimated that over 50% of these persons with diabetes are not controlling their diabetes primarily due to non-adherence to their doctor advice by failure to take medication at prescribed time, reluctance to take their medication and refusal to change their lifestyles.

The key is managing your diabetes.  And perhaps no other disease places more responsibility on the individual for personal treatment than diabetes.  While a health care team can help, a diabetic have to learn how to control his condition and follow a specific treatment program that is recommended to him.  People living with diabetes experience lifelong demands on both themselves and their families, who have to assist with making decisions relating to improving their control, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing their condition.  Once the diabetic is able to do this, it affords him a better quality of life and prevent long term complication.  The outcomes of diabetes are largely based on decisions persons living with the disease make and it is of paramount importance that such persons receive diabetes education that is tailor to their needs.  This is where the Belize Diabetes Association intervention and Diabetes Conference such as this one become necessary and crucial.  (So let me applaud the Second year nursing students of the Faculty of Nursing, Allied Health and Social Work for this effort).  While it cannot be overstated that diabetes education will enhance the persons living with diabetes decision making skills, it must also be borne in mind that at the rate which diabetes continues to rise, it is impossible for any single organization or government unit to single-handedly take on this fight.  What must be remembered is that diabetes can be prevented and controlled through education and lifestyle modifications. 

Managing diabetes is hard work but it is worth the effort in protecting our future.