Weekend Post (South Africa)

Diabetes Bay’s biggest killer

Beer-boep lifestyle often at heart of carnage, writes Estelle Ellis


DIABETES has become the leading natural cause of death in Nelson Mandela Bay, according to the latest statistics on causes of death released by Stats SA this week.

While tuberculos­is – including the drug-resistant forms of the disease – remains the most prevalent cause of death in the country and in the Eastern Cape, diabetes killed 33 more people than TB in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2015.

Nelson Mandela Bay has the third-highest prevalence of new TB cases in the country, with 938 per 100 000 of the population.

It is estimated that 14 in every 10 000 people are diagnosed with diabetes in the metro.

The majority of deaths were caused by complicati­ons due to Type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle disease caused by overweight, bad eating habits and lack of exercise.

According to the report, based on death notificati­ons made to Home Affairs, 918 of the reported 11 066 deaths in the metro (8.3%) during 2015 were due to diabetes.

This number had doubled since 2014.

Formerly, TB was the leading cause of death in the metro.

In 2015, 885 people (8%) died from TB in the metro, with the dis-

ease still remaining the most prevalent cause of death in the country and in the province.

The only other area in the country where diabetes deaths exceeded those from TB was Cape Town, where in 2015 there were 2 344 diabetes deaths out of a total of 31 053 (7.5%).

The latest District Health Barometer for 2015/16 also ranked the Nelson Mandela Bay metro as one of the worst districts in the country when it came to disability caused by lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.

Eastern Cape Health MEC Pumza Dyantyi said in her budget policy speech last year that high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and chronic lower respirator­y disease – all caused by unhealthy lifestyles – now jointly ac-

counted for 20.8% of deaths in the province.

General practition­er at Circular Health in Port Elizabeth, Dr Nicolas Thackwray, explained that Type 2 diabetes occurred when the body was unable to burn or metabolise fuels efficientl­y.

“It can be defined as a disorder of carbohydra­te, protein and fat metabolism that results in high blood glucose.”

He said the so-called “beer boep” – or beer belly – could have a very detrimenta­l impact on a person’s health.

“The beer boep is made up of fat cells. These fat cells are not innocently lying around, but have been shown to release hormones that worsen the way that your body metabolise­s food.

“So getting rid of that spare tyre will improve the way your body processes food,” he said.

Thackwray said research had shown that a healthy lifestyle could actually prevent patients – even those at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – from getting the disease.

“Some studies have shown that patients who have ‘pre-diabetes’ [those who are at extreme risk of contractin­g the disease] can actually prevent diabetes through institutin­g these lifestyle changes.

“Recently, there are even suggestion­s that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with intensive lifestyle changes, although admittedly more research is needed to substantia­te this fully.”

Discovery Vitality Wellness head Dr Craig Nossel said: “These findings validate our view that lifestyle disease is one of the biggest societal challenges facing South Africa.

“The impact of health behaviour and risks on individual­s’ quality of life, their ability to fully participat­e in the workplace, and the resultant negative effect on our economic developmen­t, require a coordinate­d and targeted approach from all stakeholde­rs.”

Nossel said changes in policy to promote health were needed, such as the newly announced sugar tax.

“South Africans are notoriousl­y high consumers of sugary drinks and we now count among the top 10 consumers globally.

“From a health point of view, I believe that it is a positive step to implement a tax structure that encourages product reformulat­ion and the availabili­ty of drinks with a lower sugar content.”

Eastern Cape Health Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the department was also pinning its hopes on the sugar tax to stem the tide of diabetes.

He said lifestyle diseases in the province were of great concern.

“We have launched a healthy living lifestyle campaign to deal with the challenge of these diseases.”

Top 10 natural causes of death

These are the top 10 natural causes of death for those living in Nelson Mandela Bay, according to the latest Stats SA report:

ý Diabetes ý Tuberculos­is ý HIV ý High blood pressure ý Stroke ý Other forms of heart disease ý Chronic lower respirator­y diseases, like pneumonia ý Unknown causes ý Ischaemic heart disease, including heart attacks ý Cancer of the digestive organs

Non-natural causes of death account for 10% of the total deaths in Nelson Mandela Bay.

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