Diabetes the “silent” killer

Editorial

DIABETES is a preventable disease because it is a result of how people live and the choices they make rather than something passed on.
Yesterday, Nov 14, was the day chosen by the World Health Organisation and the International Diabetes Federation as World Diabetes Day (WDD).
President of the Papua New Guinea Diabetes Association, (PNG DA) Dr Lutty Amos said that WDD was the largest diabetes campaign throughout the world, commemorated annually by the 151 countries that are registered under the International Diabetic Federation (IDF).
It was a chance to draw global attention to the threat posed by a disease which continues to have a devastating impact on the health of the Pacific island nations.
To that end, Port Moresby General Hospital diabetes clinic head Dr Steven Bogosia said the disease is a serious complex condition which can affect the entire body requires daily self care and if complications develop, the disease can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy.
While there is currently no cure for diabetes, a person can live an enjoyable life by learning about the condition and effectively managing it.
But Dr Bogosia said the regular medical check-ups and screening could help detect the on set of the disease and allow the individual to take steps to manage or avoid it altogether.
Diabetes is a word heard so often in hospitals and on medical charts and it is safe to assume many educated Papua New Guineans are aware of the condition but Dr Bogosia described it as a “silent” disease.
He stressed the need for people to have medical check-ups regularly but in a country where health care is not always readily available or affordable for many Papua New Guineans that might be a tall order.
So what can people do to prevent developing diabetes?
Obviously, they have to make good diet and lifestyle choices.
It has often been said that “you are what you eat” and for diabetes this is true.
When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood.
Glucose is a form of sugar which is the main source of energy for our bodies.
Unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to long term and short term health complications.
For our bodies to work properly we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy.
A hormone called insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy.
In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body.
When people with diabetes eat glucose, which is in foods such as breads, cereals, fruit and starchy vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and sweets, it can’t be converted into energy.
Instead of being turned into energy the glucose stays in the blood resulting in high blood glucose levels.
After eating, the glucose is carried around your body in your blood.
Dr Bogosia said the prevalence of diabetes was a major concern for the health sector in Papua New Guinea and many Pacific islands nations.
Locally, he said there was a worrying up surge in the cases that
were being reported at state run facilities.
“In the 80s, diabetes was very rare in Port Moresby and we only dealt with hypertension but that changed in the 1990s with non-communicable disease presentation to the hospital, not only from hypertension but also from diabetes,” Dr Bogosia said.
“At the first clinic of the 90s we saw about 10 to 20 patients a day but in the last five years there has been an increase with about 70 to 90 patients and it is tough when you have to see them within a period of three hours in the diabetic clinic.”
What the State can look at doing in order to help control the rate of diabetes in the population is to educate people young and old, at school and in the work place, and make awareness on the disease a priority.
Make people aware of the pitfalls of the modern lifestyle that has seen the exponential increase in Type 2 cases over the last three decades.
The State can also limit the type and amount of advertising of products that contribute significantly to causing diabetes.
But despite all the measures taken by the health sector and the government, the ultimate choice still rests with the individual.

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