Home » Health Services » Upsurge in Diabetes – Luxurious Lifestyles to Blame

Health professionals say luxurious lifestyles, coupled with little or no physical activity, are going to herald a health disaster characterised by hypertension, cancer and diabetes.

Indeed, the world is geared towards that disaster and Zimbabwe in particular is already registering a resurgence of non communicable diseases.

According to the Zimbabwe Diabetes Association (ZDA), diabetes accounts for 10 percent of non communicable diseases in the country.

However, majority of diabetes cases go unnoticed as most people do not know that they are diabetic.

Unmanaged diabetes leads to strokes, renal failure, amputations and blindness among other complications.

The World Health Organisation also estimates that 27 percent of the population is hypertensive.

Unmanaged high blood pressure may also lead to impaired vision, severe headache, chest pain and difficulty in breathing.

These problems can complicate to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, rupture of blood vessels followed by paralysis and death.

Some people even have a dual existence of both conditions.

Lifestyle chances

When one takes a walk around Harare from the city centre to the downtown areas, you will notice a similar trend where at each corner there is a fast food outlet.

This means junk food has become the in-thing, very popular with many people. And, as if that were not enough, most people now drive to work or to shops because they no longer want to walk — and most people now drive their children to school.

What people do not seem to realise and which health authorities are not doing much to aise on, is that this behaviour represents a health time bomb.

With these type of diets, compounded by little or no physical activity, the population is certainly heading for an obese society.

Fast food outlets across the country, are a hive of activity, from morning right through to night time.

As if that is not enough, a 500mls pet coke is extremely high in sugar content, containing 13 to 15 teaspoons of sugar.

Health experts say sugar is just as bad as too much fat because unwanted sugar is converted into carbohydrates which is then stored under the skin as fat, hence one would gain weight attracting the same health complications such as diabetes.

Previously a preserve of the elite, fast food outlets are now very popular with everyone, from vendors in the streets to the affluent residents.

The fat-based cooking methods have also raised the concern of health experts who say this has exposed people to a range of diseases.

“We urge cooks to employ water-based methods such as boiling or steaming as this eliminates the risk of spreading cancer and heart diseases.

“But because deep frying is fast and enticing, it remains the viable commercial practice,” said one dietician from Harare.

Some research have also established the high link between deep-frying methods and the use of recycled used oils to different types of cancers, including, bladder and lung cancer.

Lack of dietary information has been blamed for this recklessness which is most common in urban areas.

Rural folk who rely more on traditional diets that are not over-processed and tend to do more physical activity are safer.

On the other hand, hypertension is a silent killer. Usually there are no symptoms and therefore people should always have their blood pressure checked.

Because of various factors which also include the aging population, smoking, harmful use of alcohol and stressful lifestyles the problem of hypertension is increasing rapidly.

For many people, lifestyle changes are sufficient to control blood pressure but for others, medication is required.

Rules and regulations

Government should enforce correct and visible labelling of food products to ensure consumers, especially diabetics, are aware of sugar, carbohydrates or fat concentration in products.

Use of colours to identify products that could be hazardous to health could also be useful. For instance, a product that is not good for one’s health is clearly labelled in red and that which is fit is considered healthy eating is labelled green.

Government should also strengthen public awareness of diabetes, cancer and hypertension risk factors and take appropriate measures for their prevention.

For instance, just like patients are checked for hypertension upon entering a health facility, the same should apply to diabetes and cancer.

At the moment screening of cancer is voluntary as patients can choose to be tested particularly for cervical cancer screening or breast cancer screening.

On diabetes, testing is offered in health institutions but treatment is not free.

The ZDA has also called for enactment of a Statutory Instrument that makes diagnosis and treatment of diabetics at State hospitals free.

People living with diabetes have since called on Government to look into the cost of diabetes treatment which they say is beyond reach of an ordinary Zimbabwean.

Insulin injection costs an average of US$20 for a week’s supply WHILE some patients also buy glucometres (machine for testing blood sugar levels) which cost between US$20 and $45.

On average a diabetes patient spend at least US$80 on management of the condition. ZDA president Mr John Mangwiro said the high cost of diabetes care has impacted negatively on effective management of the diabetes as many patients end up defaulting on treatment.

He said these patients only show up with complications at hospitals.

“Often people particularly those in rural areas stop taking their treatment for management of the condition because of the high cost resulting in high rates of defaulting,” he said.

Access to diabetes treatment and care was even difficult in rural areas where majority of people there survive from farming hence the need to heavily subsidise diagnosis and treatment.

Diabetes is when a person’s blood glucose or sugar levels are too high. Over time, this can cause problems with other body functions, such as kidneys, nerves, feet, and eyes.

The condition also predisposes patients to heart disease and bone and joint disorders. World statistics show that 70 percent of all amputations are done as a consequence of diabetes.

However, the prevalence and impact of the disease can be minimised by following a healthy diet.

Source : The Herald