Diabetes is a family disease and a family affair

13 Nov, 2018 13:24

Diabetes, a major contributor to premature death, is estimated to affect 10-15% of the adult population in the Caribbean Region.  Insulin dependent (type 1) diabetes is most often diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, but more are developing type 2 diabetes.  Although type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes can be, with support from family.

The risk factors for type 2 Diabetes are obesity, abdominal obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol use, tobacco smoking, and an unhealthy diet. The more risk factors you have, the higher your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

CARPHA Director for Surveillance, Prevention and Control Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg stated, “If you are diabetic, following your treatment regimen and keeping your blood glucose and blood pressure under control are important to avoid serious complications of the disease. Complications from diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.  If one does not take the necessary precautions, and complications do occur, the burden of the disease is left on the family. We urge you to follow a healthy diet, avoiding high fat and high salt foods and sugary beverages that are high in calories and low in nutrients.  Persons with diabetes should not smoke; this is a deadly combination.

The theme for World Diabetes Day 2018 and 2019 is The Family and diabetes. Families have a key role to play in addressing the modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and CARPHA joins the rest of the world to raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family.

The role of the parent is to be their child's first teacher and should remain their best teacher throughout life. Parents and guardians have the responsibility to set the right example for those looking up to them. Parents are the key players of instilling healthy behaviors and healthy lifestyles for their children. They can help their children lead healthier lives by learning about diabetes and making sure their children eat properly and exercise regularly.

Obesity is the strongest modifiable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes in the Caribbean. Women and men are encouraged to pay attention to maintaining a healthy body weight and waist size. The disease is becoming more common in children and teenagers – if children are overweight or obese, they are at a higher risk of diabetes later in life. 

Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg further stated that, “Diabetes is a family disease and a family affair.  Overweight, obesity and physical inactivity can put an entire family at risk of the disease.  Adults with diabetes and complications from diabetes, depend on the support of family for assistance in managing their condition and contributing to their quality of life. Support from friends and family promotes adherence by encouraging optimism and self-esteem, which can buffer the stress of being ill and reduce patient depression.”

If you are at risk of type 2 diabetes, you can live your life through healthy diet and exercise. Encourage family members to monitor their health status regularly by visiting your doctor or a health facility to get screened for diabetes.  For those already affected, the good news is that diabetes can be managed and controlled, and its consequences avoided or delayed with medication, regular screening and treatment for complications. Families are essential in seeing to it that their loved ones comply with their treatment. 

CARPHA continues to support member states in their efforts to minimize the impact of diabetes.  The Agency is also actively working with partners regionally and internationally including non-governmental organizations to reduce risk factors and chronic diseases in the region. In addition, CARPHA has developed a 6-point policy package for healthier food environments which includes mandatory food labelling, nutritional standards and guidelines for schools, and reduction in the marketing of unhealthy foods.  
World Diabetes Day was created by International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. World Diabetes Day is marked every year on 14 November.

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