World Health Day 2016 – Growing diabetes rates require a shift towards preventative medicine

Lifestyle changes can prevent or help manage diabetes

Thursday, April 7 2016

This World Health Day, commemorated on 7 April, healthcare professionals at Netcare hospitals are warning that type 2 diabetes is on the rise. Fortunately, there is much that the public can do to fend off this medical condition.

“The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Report on Diabetes found that the international prevalence of diabetes has increased almost four fold since 1980, and now affects approximately 422 million adults1,” says Dr Gareth Lorge, a physician at Netcare Rosebank Hospital. “This dramatic increase can largely be attributed to sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary choices, which, regrettably, have become the norm in modern society.”

“The irony is that the general public is aware of the risks associated with neglecting their bodies, but frequently choose to disregard the simple tenets of proactive health management. People who abuse their bodies through eating unhealthily, neglecting to exercise, as well as smoking and drinking alcohol, should therefore not be shocked when they are diagnosed with a lifestyle disease such a diabetes one day.”

Dr Lorge explains that diabetes is a condition whereby the body is not able to produce enough insulin or alternatively does not use the insulin that is produced effectively. Insulin is a hormone protein produced by the pancreas, and converts the sugars in food into energy needed to conduct our daily activities. There are two main types of diabetes, namely types 1 and 2, which can have similar symptoms although their causes are quite different.

“While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes is often caused by obesity and elevated blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1, accounting for between 90% and 95% of diabetic cases.

“This World Health Day, which focuses on awareness of this increasingly common condition, it is essential that we highlight the benefits of preventative medicine in relation to diabetes. Preventative medicine has advantages not only for diagnosed diabetics who can benefit from incorporating the principles into their treatment plan, but also for the general public who may be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Lorge explains that preventative medicine involves a proactive approach to health management and disease preclusion, as opposed to treating health conditions once they manifest. “Preventative medicine is about embracing healthy practices in our everyday lives and doing all we can to stop the onset of disease, through measures including vaccination, screening tests and lifestyle changes.”

“In the case of diabetes, eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain unprocessed foods, can help to regulate blood glucose. In combination with regular exercise, this can help to reduce one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and can also help diagnosed diabetics to keep their blood sugar stable.”

In terms of preventative health screenings for diabetes, Dr Lorge encourages regular blood glucose tests, particularly for individuals with a family history of diabetes, those who are overweight and anyone over 40 years of age. “The earlier type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the better it can be managed and with timely diagnosis this condition can sometimes be managed through lifestyle changes alone.”

Symptoms of diabetes include a frequent need to urinate, increased thirst and hunger, ongoing tiredness and blurred vision. “Any of these in isolation could signal diabetes, and I would encourage anyone experiencing any of these symptoms to seek medical advice,” Dr Lorge warns.

Both types of diabetes can have serious health consequences in the long term, including diabetic ulcers, blindness, kidney failure, coronary heart disease, nerve damage, stroke, diabetic coma and complications that may necessitate amputations. A diabetic’s long-term prospects are improved, however, if they eat a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly in conjunction with adhering to their prescribed treatment.

“Everyone can benefit from preventative healthcare if they make meaningful positive changes in their lifestyle and take a more proactive approach to their wellbeing. Diabetes is just one of the lifestyle-related medical conditions that we can pre-empt or manage through looking after our bodies as we know we should,” Dr Lorge concluded.





Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Rosebank Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville and Devereaux Morkel
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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