21 November 2012

Tanzania: Poverty, Reckless Lifestyle Increases Diabetes Risks

Photo: La Presse
A patient receives an injection. Zanzibar count of 6,000 diabetic patient has continued to rise as people's lifestyles become more sedentary.

Zanzibar — IT is now ten years since Ms Amina Omar, 51, was diagnosed with diabetes. She says that her lavish and reckless lifestyle at the age between twenty and forty is to blame for the health problem now.

"I used to eat well without body exercise. Eating well according to our local definition is 'consuming foods containing too much sugar, starch, and oils. I wish I could go back to my youth days and have control over my diet," she said.

Health officials say many people in Zanzibar during their active age live a similar lifestyle which cost Amina.

Young men and women 'enjoy' drinking, and eating too much unbalanced food without body exercise. "Most people and families in the islands place themselves at the risk of contracting diabetes because of an unsuitable programme for eating, and doing little physical exercise.

Being watchful of what you eat, and regular exercising reduces chances of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases," Dr Faiza Kassim, head of diabetes department, Mnazi Mmoja Hospital. At least six thousands diabetes patients are in Zanzibar with an estimated population of 1.3 million persons. Faiza said the number grows because new patients are registered. Addressing people including diabetes patients in Nungwi village last Wednesday on World Diabetes Day (WDD), Dr Faiza emphasized on self body control to minimize chances of becoming diabetes patient.

WDD is marked on November 14 of every year. World Diabetes Day was jointly introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The global diabetes awareness campaign was introduced amidst concern over an escalating diabetes epidemic. November 14th is a significant date in the diabetes calendar because it marks the birthday of the man, who in 1922 co-discovered insulin, Frederick Banting.

Faiza says as the number of diabetes patients' rises, demand for medicine also increases: "We ask individual people, companies, and international organizations to keep on helping the patients by donating medicines and other needs," she says. She said that the ongoing awareness campaign has been effective as many people are turning up for checking: "The only challenge is still majority people are reluctant to change their lifestyle," she explains.

Mr Ali Juma Shamuhuna, Minister for Education and Vocational Training was the chief guest at the WDD ceremony in Nungwi, and he urged people in both rural and urban areas to have culture of frequent health check. "Checking is very important because once you know earlier that you have diabetes, it helps in treatment," Shamuhuna said at the gathering including students, whom he asked to take health precaution for better life.

Mohammed Homoud, 18, who was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of two, informed the students: "It is a big challenge. I am not free. But I continue to live because I observe doctors' guidance, and do regular body exercise." Elderly men and women who turned up for the WDD in Nungwi blamed poverty as a major problem in fighting diabetes. "We are required to eat what we cannot afford. Most available food is prohibited and yet we cannot get support," said one.

Causes and risk factors for diabetes According to Health experts, there is Type 1, and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 mainly in children, is when no insulin is produced at all because the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have been destroyed. Nobody knows for sure why these cells get damaged but the most likely cause is the body having an abnormal reaction to the cells.

There is nothing that you can do to prevent Type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes is always treated with insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes is when the body either does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin it produces does not work as well as it should (insulin resistance). This type of diabetes is treated with lifestyle changes, following a healthy balanced diet, increasing physical activity, and losing weight if you need to! Medical doctors say some people with Type 2 may need medications and/or insulin injections to achieve normal blood glucose levels.

Some of the risks factors associated with Type 2 diabetes are out of your control while others, such as being overweight, you can act on to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Scientists argue if you are a white person and over 40 years old; black, Asian or from a minority ethnic group and over 25 years old. If a close member of your family has Type 2 diabetes (parent or brother or sister) you are at risk of having diabetes.

Other risk factors include high blood pressure, a heart attack or a stroke. A severe mental health problems. "The more risk factors that apply to you, the greater the risk of having diabetes," health experts say. However, some things that do not cause diabetes include eating sweets and sugar, but eating a lot of sugary and fatty foods can lead to being overweight.

Stress does not cause diabetes, although it may make the symptoms worse in people who already have the condition; and an accident or an illness will not cause diabetes, but may reveal diabetes if it is already there. Symptoms of diabetes are the same in both children and adults. The symptoms tend to come on over a few weeks: thirst, weight loss, tiredness, and frequent urination.

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