City Health cautions against growing diabetes burden

The City of Cape Town’s Health Directorate would like to appeal to residents to have regular tests for diabetes mellitus (commonly referred to as diabetes) and to keep in shape to avoid contracting the disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has singled out diabetes for World Health Day as it has become one of the biggest threats to public health.

According to the WHO, about 350 million people worldwide have diabetes and the disease was responsible for 1,5 million deaths in 2012  most in low- and middle-income countries.

Many patients with diabetes have no symptoms (or very mild symptoms) and go undiagnosed until they develop diabetic complications. To prevent this situation, adults should visit a healthcare facility to do random glucose tests for diabetes screening. While there, patients will receive advice on diabetes prevention to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, such as lifestyle modification tips including weight loss, exercise and diet. People who are at high risk of developing diabetes are those who are overweight, inactive, hypertensive or have a family history of diabetes.

Treatment of diabetes is aimed at preventing complications associated with the condition. The corrosive effect of high levels of blood sugar for a prolonged period of time can lead to organ damage like kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and strokes. In addition to controlling blood sugar levels, dietary changes like reducing sugar and starch intake are also advocated.

Healthcare providers place heavy emphasis on patient education to overcome other challenges like possible side effects of diabetes medication.

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