Di­a­betes among women

CityPress - - News - VUKILE DLWATI vukile.dlwati@city­press.co.za Di­a­betes is the big­gest killer of SA women Risk fac­tors Be­ing aged 35 or over A fam­ily his­tory of di­a­betes Over 199 mil­lion women live with di­a­betes world­wide Hav­ing high choles­terol or other fats in the blood


Mpolo­keng Mu­dau vis­ited her gy­nae­col­o­gist for a rou­tine checkup two months be­fore she was to de­liver her son, only to re­turn home dis­ap­pointed that she had been di­ag­nosed with type 1 di­a­betes.

Although this hap­pened in 2009, she re­mem­bers the in­ci­dent vividly, say­ing she had com­plained to her doc­tor about an in­sa­tiable thirst dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion.

“No mat­ter how much wa­ter I drank, I could not feel quenched,” re­calls Mu­dau.

“I also ex­pe­ri­enced blurred vi­sion. When the doc­tor ran some tests, he re­alised my sugar level was high,” she said, adding that when her blood sam­ple was ex­am­ined, she was found to have type 1 di­a­betes.

Mu­dau is one of more than 199 mil­lion women world­wide liv­ing with di­a­betes. Some of them will mark World Di­a­betes Day on Tues­day. The day is meant to pro­mote di­a­betes care, preven­tion and a cure world­wide.

This year’s theme is Women and Di­a­betes – our right to a healthy fu­ture.

Globally, there are 366 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing with di­a­betes, and the In­ter­na­tional Di­a­betes Fed­er­a­tion has pre­dicted that this num­ber could rise to 552 mil­lion by 2030.

Mu­dau (31) tells City Press that what fright­ens her most about di­a­betes is the thought of los­ing her eye­sight.

“The minute the sugar lev­els in my body go up, my eyes be­come blurry,” she says, adding that the fear of los­ing her eye­sight has kept her mo­ti­vated to take her med­i­ca­tion re­li­giously.

She has fa­mil­iarised her­self with facts about the dis­ease to such an ex­tent that she now runs an em­pow­er­ment com­mu­nity pro­gramme where, once a week, she holds reg­u­lar talks with young girls about the ill­ness to dis­pel the false­hoods sur­round­ing the dis­ease.

In some com­mu­ni­ties, for ex­am­ple, she says there is a pre­vail­ing be­lief that if no one in a fam­ily is di­a­betic, it is not pos­si­ble for a per­son to be di­ag­nosed with it. Other myths in­clude the be­lief that if a per­son is not fat, they can­not be­come di­a­betic – or if a per­son does not con­sume too much sugar, they can­not be di­a­betic. Mu­dau says she of­ten en­cour­ages young peo­ple to lead a healthy life­style to avoid all kinds of ill­nesses. She also teaches young­sters about hy­giene and dis­trib­utes san­i­tary tow­els. Mu­dau be­lieves that her di­a­betes had led her to her call­ing.

“It is as if my life was wait­ing for me to be­come di­a­betic in or­der to move for­ward,” she says.

How­ever, her sup­port­ive hus­band of­ten “watches me like a hawk” at meal times to en­sure she makes the right choices.

“I was very lazy around the sev­enth month of my preg­nancy. I was fairly big, lazy and tired,” she re­calls. “To be hon­est, I some­times still have rough days when I want to let loose and eat what­ever I want, and it’s hard. But I just snap out of it when I think about my chil­dren.” Dr Larry Dis­tiller, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of the Cen­tre of Di­a­betes and En­docrinol­ogy, says South Africa has the big­gest num­ber of peo­ple di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes on the con­ti­nent, with Nige­ria in sec­ond place.

He makes the dis­tinc­tion be­tween di­a­betes type 1 and 2, say­ing type 1 oc­curs as a re­sult of the de­struc­tion of in­sulin-pro­duc­ing cells in the pan­creas, and it some­times af­fects young peo­ple.

“Pa­tients be­come in­sulin de­pleted and de­fi­cient, and they need to have in­sulin in­jec­tions to sur­vive. Type 1 di­a­betes is not pre­ventable be­cause it is a ge­netic con­di­tion,” he ex­plains.

Type 2 di­a­betes is more of a life­style con­di­tion, says Dis­tiller. It af­fects mainly older peo­ple – and some­times Di­a­betes is the ninth lead­ing cause of death in women globally, caus­ing 2.1 mil­lion deaths per year The in­ci­dence of type 2 di­a­betes is pro­jected to in­crease to 313 mil­lion by 2040 Be­ing over­weight or obese

(es­pe­cially if you carry most of your weight around your mid­dle) SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word DI­A­BETES and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 young peo­ple.

Type 2 di­a­betes is as­so­ci­ated with be­ing over­weight. How­ever, Dis­tiller is quick to point out that the ef­fects of this type can be re­duced “by lead­ing a healthy life­style and keep­ing fit and ac­tive”.

Type 2 di­a­betes also oc­curs when a per­son’s in­sulin­pro­duc­ing cells are not en­tirely healthy, and are frag­ile and dam­aged.

“The cells can nor­mally make enough in­sulin if you’re thin, but when you be­come over­weight and in­ac­tive, you be­come re­sis­tant to in­sulin and so the cells can­not cope,” ex­plains Dis­tiller.

He rec­om­mends that peo­ple over the age of 40, and those who are over­weight and in­ac­tive, should get tested ev­ery year by means of un­der­go­ing a sim­ple blood test.

“Di­a­betes is not a death sen­tence; it is a life sen­tence. Once you are di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes you need to be treated prop­erly, mon­i­tored, fol­lowed up and man­aged for the rest of your life. If you do the right thing by fol­low­ing the rules, look­ing af­ter your­self as a di­a­betic and keep­ing your blood pres­sure and choles­terol un­der con­trol, you can live a long life with di­a­betes.”

There are three types of di­a­betes:

. TYPE 1 DI­A­BETES – a con­di­tion where the body stops pro­duc­ing in­sulin, an es­sen­tial hor­mone pro­duced by the pan­creas to con­vert glu­cose into en­ergy;

. TYPE 2 DI­A­BETES – a con­di­tion that de­vel­ops over time where the body is un­able to use in­sulin prop­erly; and

. GESTATIONAL DI­A­BETES – a form of di­a­betes that oc­curs dur­ing preg­nancy be­cause of hor­monal changes, ge­net­ics and life­style fac­tors.

Most South Africans with di­a­betes have type 2 di­a­betes. The high­est preva­lence of di­a­betes among South Africans is in the In­dian pop­u­la­tion (11% to 13%) as this group has a strong ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion for di­a­betes. This is fol­lowed by 8% to 10% of peo­ple in the coloured com­mu­nity, 5% to 8% among blacks and 4% among whites.

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