Vi­tal to have fam­ily sup­port

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - World Diabetes Day - By SRIMAYEE SEN SARMA

“DI­A­BETES is a se­ri­ous global prob­lem and is at the point of be­com­ing un­con­trol­lable, with one in two peo­ple with di­a­betes re­main­ing un­di­ag­nosed,” warns Prof Nam H. Cho, pres­i­dent of In­ter­na­tional Di­a­betes Fed­er­a­tion (IDF).

The num­ber of peo­ple with di­a­betes world­wide has risen rapidly from 108 mil­lion in 1980 to 422 mil­lion in 2014, ac­cord­ing to World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO).

The num­ber has since in­creased even fur­ther to more than 425 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to IDF Di­a­betes At­las Eighth edi­tion 2017.

To cre­ate aware­ness about the rapid in­crease of di­a­betes pa­tients around the world, IDF with the sup­port of WHO cre­ated the World Di­a­betes Day cam­paign in 1991. A global theme is se­lected each year to fo­cus on a spe­cific area re­lated to di­a­betes. The theme for this World Di­a­betes Day is Fam­ily and Di­a­betes.

Ex­plain­ing the rea­son for this year’s theme, Prof Cho says, “With such high preva­lence of di­a­betes, most fam­i­lies have or will have a rel­a­tive af­fected by the dis­ease.

“Hence, fam­i­lies have a key role to play since they are in a po­si­tion to spot di­a­betes early and help de­liver care to any fam­ily mem­ber di­ag­nosed with it.”

How­ever, the gen­eral level of knowl­edge about the dis­ease is wor­ry­ingly low. Ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes are nec­es­sary to help raise aware­ness of the warn­ing signs and risk fac­tors in or­der to en­cour­age early in­ter­ven­tion – be­fore the de­vel­op­ment of di­a­betes-re­lated com­pli­ca­tions.

“Early de­tec­tion, pre­ven­tion and treat­ment will save money and need­less suf­fer­ing. There­fore, fam­i­lies need the right ed­u­ca­tion, re­sources and en­vi­ron­ments to play the cru­cial role of help­ing pa­tients cope with di­a­betes. The theme for this year’s World Di­a­betes Day aims to high­light this,” elu­ci­dates Prof Cho.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Loh Vooi Lee, con­sul­tant physi­cian and en­docri­nol­o­gist at ParkCity Med­i­cal Cen­tre, many peo­ple get de­pressed when di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes. Fam­ily sup­port is es­sen­tial dur­ing such times to pro­vide emo­tional sup­port and en­sure the well-be­ing of the pa­tient by help­ing with the in­tro­duc­tion of nec­es­sary life­style changes.

“Imag­ine not be­ing able to eat cer­tain things that you en­joy and know­ing that this dis­ease will never com­pletely go away.

“Fam­i­lies can help by cook­ing de­li­cious healthy meals at home for the di­a­betic or ex­er­cis­ing to­gether. This way, the di­a­betic per­son would feel sup­ported and the whole fam­ily can stay healthy too,” he sug­gests.

Prof Cho says, “A close-knit sup­port net­work is of­ten a great com­fort dur­ing a time of need and di­a­betes is no dif­fer­ent.”

He ex­plains that man­ag­ing di­a­betes can be a chal­lenge and re­quires daily com­mit­ment. Life­style changes in­clude watch­ing one’s diet, tak­ing med­i­ca­tion, and check­ing blood sugar level and keep­ing it un­der con­trol.

“Fam­i­lies have a sig­nif­i­cant role to play in sup­port­ing any loved one with di­a­betes. They can get in­volved by learn­ing how to mon­i­tor and con­trol blood sugar lev­els, whether in car­ing for a child who re­quires


in­sulin in­jec­tions or an el­derly fam­ily mem­ber who needs daily mon­i­tor­ing of blood sugar lev­els,” he adds.

Reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing of blood sugar lev­els is also es­sen­tial to prevent an­other prob­lem as­so­ci­ated with di­a­betes – hy­po­gly­caemia. Blood sugar lev­els can some­times fall dan­ger­ously be­low the nor­mal level, which may take a fa­tal turn if not treated fast.

Reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing would point to any ab­nor­mal de­crease in blood sugar level, which can then be treated by mod­i­fy­ing the dose and type of med­i­ca­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Loh, “It is im­por­tant to ed­u­cate pa­tients and their fam­i­lies on the signs to look out for, the amount of sugar to take when hy­po­gly­caemia strikes and how to prevent get­ting it in the first place.”

He elab­o­rates that fear of get­ting hy­po­gly­caemia is one of the rea­sons peo­ple do not want to take di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion. How­ever, there are many new med­i­ca­tions that can suc­cess­fully re­duce the oc­cur­rence of hy­po­gly­caemia.

More­over, hy­po­gly­caemia can be ef­fec­tively pre­vented with reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing and, if it oc­curs, eas­ily treated with prompt ac­tion.

Di­a­betes af­fects the en­tire fam­ily and life­style change is just one side of the coin. Stress and anx­i­ety are com­monly felt among pa­tients as well as fam­ily mem­bers as they adapt to the di­ag­no­sis.

Prof Cho points out, “Be­ing wor­ried about the over­all cost of di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion puts a strain on the fam­ily, who may have to spend be­yond their means to pay for care.

“Many peo­ple don’t have ac­cess to the right in­for­ma­tion to recog­nise and prevent di­a­betes, and those who are al­ready liv­ing with di­a­betes of­ten don’t have af­ford­able ac­cess to care.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, fam­i­lies need to have ac­cess to on­go­ing di­a­betes man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion and sup­port to re­duce the emo­tional im­pact of the dis­ease.

Be the change

The state of the world at present does not look too rosy with the num­ber of peo­ple with di­a­betes in­creas­ing at an un­con­trolled pace. How­ever, the more preva­lent type 2 di­a­betes (when the body be­comes in­sulin re­sis­tant) can be man­aged and pre­vented ef­fec­tively.

Eat­ing and sit­ting too much is a cul­ture that we need to let go if we are to put a stop to this grow­ing global is­sue, and this ef­fort re­quires the par­tic­i­pa­tion of not just di­a­betes pa­tients and their fam­i­lies but ev­ery mem­ber of so­ci­ety.

Prof Cho ad­vises, “Im­prov­ing aware­ness, in­vest­ing in ed­u­ca­tion to pro­mote pre­ven­tion, early di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment, and en­sur­ing af­ford­able ac­cess to med­i­ca­tion and care are all crit­i­cal to con­trol­ling the rise of di­a­betes.”

“Tack­ling the pan­demic will re­quire a whole-of-so­ci­ety ap­proach. From gov­ern­ments and in­dus­try to in­di­vid­u­als, we all need to act.”

The state of the world at present does not look too rosy with the num­ber of peo­ple with di­a­betes in­creas­ing at an un­con­trolled pace. How­ever, the more preva­lent type 2 di­a­betes (when the body be­comes in­sulin re­sis­tant) can be man­aged and pre­vented ef­fec­tively.

Hav­ing the en­tire fam­ily get in on be­ing more phys­i­cally ac­tive can con­trib­ute to low­er­ing the global preva­lence of di­a­betes.

With the num­ber of peo­ple with type 2 di­a­betes rapidly in­creas­ing, it is im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to be aware of the dis­ease and its man­age­ment meth­ods so they may of­fer sup­port to loved ones af­fected by it.

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