“THE prevalence of diabetes in people 45 years and above is high since the improvement of life expectancy in Zimbabwe which is around 60 to 65 years,” said Dr Gerald Katsamba, a consultant at Morgenster Hospital Diabetes Clinic and Merck Foundation Alumni in Zimbabwe.
According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, in Zimbabwe, it is estimated that 10 in every 100 people have diabetes.
Diabetes prevalence is not only a global problem but also a national issue that needs to be attended to.
Speaking during a presentation on ‘Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle and Raising Awareness about Prevention and Early Detection of Diabetes and Hypertension’ on an online Community Awareness Programme organised by Merck Foundation, Dr Katsamba said lifestyle changes are critical to reducing the risk of diabetes and hypertension.
He said both the young and old are at high risk, urging older people to be more cautious about diabetes because blood sugar usually goes up with aging.
Studies have shown that blood sugar (glucose) targets for older people tend to be different from those of younger people.
This means, adults should be more alert about their lifestyles in order to avoid diabetes.
Monitoring blood sugar regularly is considered one of the crucial ways of diabetes management in adults.
However, many people have little or no knowledge of diabetes, leading to believing and spreading certain myths surrounding the condition.
Some believe that if there is no one diagnosed in their family, then they are immune to diabetes.
Others assume that diabetes is caused by a high intake of sugar and sweets while some believe that being diagnosed with diabetes means it is not safe for them to exercise.
How then do you know you have diabetes?
Diabetes is a non-communicable disease in which the body is not able to efficiently turn the consumed food into energy.
This then causes sugar to build up in the bloodstream leading to what is known as hyperglycemia which then causes damage to tissues and organs in the body.
Diabetes is a chronic condition, meaning it may not go away but there is a possibility of reducing and reversing some of the effects.
Dr Katsamba highlighted a number of symptoms associated with diabetes that include excessive thirst, slow healing of cuts and wounds, excessive tiredness and drowsiness, tingling feet and hands, excessive urination, constant hunger, sudden weight loss and blurred vision, among others.
Health practitioners, therefore, advise people to have a regular checkup because early detection of diabetes can lead to early treatment which then prevents serious complications that can result from untreated diabetes.
Diabetes has three types, which include Type 1 (early onset), Type 2 (late onset) and Gestational (pregnancy-related).
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease where the pancreas is not able to produce insulin for the body to function well.
Treatment of Type 1 involves maintaining blood sugar levels through regular monitoring, insulin therapy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Unlike Type 1, Type 2, on the other hand, causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
According to Dr Katsamba, the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes include a family history of diabetes, being 45 or older, ethnicity, physical inactivity, being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
Modifiable risk factors include unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol as well as being overweight.
Non-modifiable risk factors include family history of hypertension, age of 65 years and co-existing diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Gestational diabetes, on the other hand, occurs when your body cannot make enough insulin during pregnancy.
Dr Katsamba also pointed out complications associated with diabetes that include stroke, affecting eyesight, heart diseases, kidney failure, sexual dysfunction as well as poor wound healing which can lead to amputation.
Some of the ways to prevent diabetes include maintaining a healthy body weight which can be regulated by the body mass index.
Physical activity is also cited as one of the most important aspects to keep oneself away from the doctor and to prevent a number of diseases.
A healthy diet (low carbohydrate, low fat diet) and avoiding the use of tobacco are also crucial in preventing diabetes.
Diabetes is a global health problem and it remains each individual’s responsibility to be in control of his or her health by employing lifestyle changes that assist in reversing effects of the condition.