18 November 2012

Kenya: Diabetes On Steady Rise Across Nation

Photo: Phuong Tran/IRIN
Diabetes on the increase among young people (file photo).

Nairobi — Coast, Eastern, Central and North Rift regions have the highest diabetes prevalence rates in the country.

Kenyatta National Hospital Diabetes Nurse Educator Phylis Kiiru told Capital FM News that recent data presented by various hospitals around the country also indicated that the number of those with the illness had significantly increased.

She explained that genetic factors due to marriages between blood relatives in the Coast and North regions in addition to poor eating habits were to blame for the results.

"We need to know if there are certain dietary forms that people in these regions could be taking that put them at risk? How do they marry? If you are my cousin and I marry you and I have diabetes and our grandmother also had diabetes the likelihood that our children will have diabetes is very high," she explained.

Kiiru added that children as young as six years were now presenting with Type II diabetes, which normally exhibits itself in adults.

She said that the changing trends required immediate action warning that 95 percent of Africans will have one form of the disease by the year 2030 if it is not checked.

"How are our schools being built? Are they leaving areas for children to play? People buy small plots and put up schools with no compound for children to play and when the children go home in the evening, they eat, watch television, play computer games and sleep," she noted.

"We are bringing up an obese nation," she regretted.

Type I diabetes is presented by an absolute lack of insulin in the body while in Type II an individual's body produces a small amount of insulin that cannot break down glucose in the body.

Kiiru explained that being overweight, taking excessive alcohol and smoking cigarettes all made the body's cells insensitive to insulin leading to the disease.

"When you have high cholesterol levels, then your insulin is not sensitive at the cell level and since insulin is not being properly utilised glucose is not broken down and you have high sugar levels in the blood which is what we call diabetes," she said.

Details on which gender is most affected by diabetes remain scanty because the government has not yet carried out a proper analysis on the disease prevalence rate.

Kiiru also explained that the government had been conducting a free diabetes screening in all major hospitals.

"Early diagnosis is crucial in the fight against diabetes. It will help you know what to do next because you need to take medication, change your diet, exercise, get diabetes education and have the right attitude," explained Kiiru.

She added that individuals with diabetes needed to take good care of themselves to ensure that their blood sugar levels remained between four and 10 millimoles per litre of blood (mmols/l) when they have fed and between 3.5 and five mmols/l when they had not eaten.

"A healthy person's blood sugar levels stand at between 3.5 and 7mmols/l. This is not the same for those with diabetes and they have to make sure that it does not go lower than 3.5 or higher than 10 mmols/l," she explained.

"If it goes lower than 3.5 an individual can go into a coma," she said.

Kiiru added that it was easier to pick out the signs of Type I diabetes in comparison to Type II. This is because Type II diabetes is progressive and presents itself in a series of symptoms such that by the time the diagnosis is made, the patient also exhibits other complications.

"In fact most people get diagnosed with Type II diabetes because of the other complications for example vision problems and kidney illnesses. But in Type I complications will not present at the time diagnosis," she explained.

Kiiru also said that the disease was not curable.

"And we do not have severe or mild diabetes; diabetes is diabetes and it should be taken with the seriousness it deserves," she concluded.

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