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Did you know that Type 2 Diabetes has become the number one cause of death in women in South Africa according to Statistics SA? The people who are most at risk are older men and women who are overweight. Diabetes is also a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation due to the damage it does to blood vessels and nerves.

This is also why we participate in World Diabetes Day on 14 November 2017. It is a day to raise awareness of diabetes by highlighting what it is, how it affects people, and what can be done about it. It is led by the IDF (International Diabetes Foundation) and was created by the IDF and WHO (World Health Organization) in 1991 due to growing concerns about the increasing health threat posed by diabetes. It is celebrated worldwide and is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion in more than 160 countries!

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to process glucose, a sugar found in foods containing carbohydrates and is also made in the liver. It occurs when the body is resistant to insulin due to factors like weight-gain or when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to move the glucose into the cells for energy. Diabetes comes in two primary forms: Type 1, which requires regular insulin injections to manage blood sugar levels and Type 2 that can be managed with medication and adjustments to lifestyle including changes to diet and exercise. Type 2 Diabetes comes down to excessive calorie consumption and unhealthy lifestyles, although genetic factors also play a role.

In 2017, South Africa lost popular Kwaito star, Anthony ‘Tsekeleke’ Motaung, to the disease. The singer of the hit Fatty Boom Boom lost his long battle with the disease in August 2017. The artist, who was known for his size, had diabetes for years and had been warned about it leading to peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is a known complication of diabetes that restricts blood flow to the feet and legs. Because of the loss of sensation and poor circulation in their feet, people sustain wounds, and they are not aware of them until they become septic, which can lead to the amputation of limbs.After years of resisting the idea – Tsekeleke publicly stated that he’d rather face death than lose his legs. In late 2016, Tsekeleke’s toes were amputated. Less than a year later, he had passed away. Could his death and the deaths of so many other people with Type 2 diabetes have been prevented through lifestyle changes and early detection? And should diabetes still be killing people in this day and age?

Diabetes need not be a death sentence, however., Dr Heidi Frere, a Bryanston-based GP, says “Diabetes is a terrible disease, to be sure, but through early diagnosis and proper management with the help of a medical professional, it can be mitigated. People living with the disease can live healthy, long lives as a result; the disease is potentially reversible through very robust lifestyle changes and a sustainable weight loss programme.

“When it comes to changing your diet and establishing exercise habits, help is available.” says Renny Letswalo chairperson of the Cambridge Weight Plan. “Research has shown that an effective lifestyle adjustment happens when strategic intervention is adopted to lose the weight and maintain it. The Cambridge Weight Plan is an evidence-based programme that has proven worldwide to assist in tackling obesity and benefiting those battling with diabetes. The plan addresses health challenges like blood sugar imbalances by encouraging loss of sufficient weight (10-15 kg) through its highly-personalised diet programmes, as well as the support and care provided by its consultants.”

People with Type 1 and 2 diabetes can follow the Cambridge Weight Plan with the support of their doctor. The programme is adjusted slightly to ensure blood glucose levels will remain as stable as possible. Follow their Facebook page or visit their website for more details on how you can take the first step to a better, healthier life.

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