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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. Led by the IDF (International Diabetes Foundation) and created by the IDF and WHO (World Health Organization) in 1991 due to growing concerns about the increasing health threat posed by diabetes, World Diabetes Day (14 November) is acknowledged worldwide and is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion in more than 160 countries.

What is diabetes?

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
  • Type 2 that can be managed with medication and adjustments to lifestyle including changes to diet and exercise. Type-2 diabetes is a result of excessive calorie consumption and an unhealthy lifestyle, although genetics also plays a role.

Diabetes in South Africa

South Africa’s popular Kwaito star, Anthony ‘Tsekeleke’ Motaung, to the disease – singer of the hit ‘Fatty Boom Boom’ – lost his long battle with the disease in August 2017. The artist, known for his size, had suffered with 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 are not aware of the wounds they sustain in these areas until they become septic, which can lead to gangrene and the amputation of limbs.

After years of resisting the idea (Tsekeleke publicly stated that he’d rather face death than lose his legs) his toes were amputated in 2016 and he had passed away less than a year later. 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?

Experts say …

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.”

Renny Letswalo, chairperson of the Cambridge Weight Plan, adds, “When it comes to changing your diet and establishing exercise habits, help is available. 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 tackle obesity and benefit those battling with diabetes.”

Those with diabetes can follow this weight plan with the support of their doctor, to ensure the programme is adjusted to keep blood glucose levels as stable as possible.

Source: Cambridge Weight Plan. Image: Pixabay

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