The City of Cape Town’s Health Directorate would like to appeal to residents to have regular tests for diabetes mellitus (commonly referred to as diabetes) and to keep in shape to avoid contracting the disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has singled out diabetes for World Health Day tomorrow, 7 April 2016, as it has become one of the biggest threats to public health.
According to the WHO, about 350 million people worldwide have diabetes and the disease was responsible for 1,5 million deaths in 2012 – most in low- and middle-income countries.‘Diabetes is a growing problem all over the world and evidence suggests that at this rate, it will became a bigger killer than HIV/Aids and tuberculosis (TB). Unless something drastic is done to develop awareness around prevention and to ensure optimal diabetic treatment control, South Africa is in for another health crisis,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli.
Many patients with diabetes have no symptoms (or very mild symptoms) and go undiagnosed until they develop diabetic complications. To prevent this situation, adults should visit a healthcare facility to do random glucose tests for diabetes screening. While there, patients will receive advice on diabetes prevention to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, such as lifestyle modification tips including weight loss, exercise and diet. People who are at high risk of developing diabetes are those who are overweight, inactive, hypertensive or have a family history of diabetes.
‘Unfortunately we have a struggle on our hands. Many people simply do not take issues like diabetes seriously enough until they are diagnosed and it’s too late. We need to look after our health – from what we are eating to whether we are keeping active. Lifestyle is as important if not more so than treatment and medication. We need to move away from the idea that pills can fix everything. Prevention through good habits is a much better option.
‘It’s also a little known fact that people with diabetes have a much higher risk of developing TB. Every new case diagnosed with diabetes must be screened for TB. Conversely, if a diagnosis of TB is made, it is imperative that the patient be screened for diabetes. So the health impact is actually potentially much more serious than we might think,’ added Councillor Mamkeli.
Treatment of diabetes is aimed at preventing complications associated with the condition. The corrosive effect of high levels of blood sugar for a prolonged period of time can lead to organ damage like kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and strokes. In addition to controlling blood sugar levels, dietary changes like reducing sugar and starch intake are also advocated.
Healthcare providers place heavy emphasis on patient education to overcome other challenges like possible side effects of diabetes medication.
‘There is no “one size fits all” approach to diabetes management. Each patient needs to be actively involved in discussing and planning their treatment goals, but also to help raise awareness around the prevention of diabetes – especially for those around them, but also their children. We are seeing an increase in the number of young people affected by diabetes and this cannot be allowed to go unchecked,’ said Councillor Mamkeli.