On the eve of National Type 2 Diabetes Awareness Day in Ireland, I decided to take this opportunity to reflect on how diabetes has been plunged into the media spotlight over the last few weeks. What Operation Transformation on RTE 1 has done for highlighting awareness of diabetes has been tremendous.
In the last week I have helped educate, support and advise several people newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Emotions have ranged from fear and concern for the future, to feeling completely overwhelmed with the prospect of lifestyle changes, new medication and monitoring their blood sugar levels. No two people are the same, each of us are unique and so too with diabetes. While all those people l saw this week are just diagnosed, how they feel about having diabetes, how they cope and manage their diabetes will be different for each one. How I educate and support them will also be different, suited to their needs and requirements.
But what they did have in common was, none of them realised they had diabetes, and all of them had risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes. They varied in age, shapes and sizes, not one had the sterotypical profile of what the media portrays as Type 2 Diabetes, grossly overweight and bingeing on carbs. One gentleman even had symptoms of diabetes, but did not recognize them as diabetes. By the time you start to develop symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, it is estimated you have had diabetes for 7-10 years previous and were not aware you had diabetes. Research shows that 50% of people who have symptoms on diagnosis already have developed complications with their diabetes.
RISK FACTORS FOR DEVELOPING TYPE 2 DIABETES
- Over the age of 40 (although I am seeing people younger and younger being diagnosed)
- Overweight: waist measurement greater than 31.5inches in a female and 37 inches in a male
- Family History: Having a parent or sibling with Type 2 Diabetes increases your risk of developing the condition by up to 50%. It does not matter at what age your parents had diabetes, as many people think if their parents had diabetes in old age, it does not increase their risk.
- Gestational Diabetes: Having diabetes in your pregnancies can increase your risk by up to 50% or having a baby that weighed over 10Ibs can increase your risk
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Poor lifestyle habits: Sedentary and diet high in refined carbohydrates
- South Asian & Afro carribbean populations
So early detection is imperative and that is why Operation Transformation, RTE and the general media have to be commended for the diabetes campaign they have conducted. I have spoken on community radio stations this week and featured on local newspapers. If this raises enough awareness for just one person to go to their GP to be screened for diabetes and are diagnosed, it has been a campaign that has been justified.
I have conducted many screenings in the community down through the years, in shopping centres, pharmacies and town halls. It concerns me how many people flee from me when I ask them would they like to be screened for diabetes. They tell me they don’t want to know or they are fine as they are. These are the very people who need to be screened as I suspect the fear of knowing stems from the fact they suspect they could have diabetes already or are at risk. And the longer people remain in denial about possibly having diabetes, the worse the consequences of having it are.
Having diabetes in 2012 is not like having it back in the 1950’s or 60’s. We need to address peoples perceptions and stigma that surrounds having diabetes. Nowadays we have a wide range of treatments for diabetes, living with diabetes today does not need to be the death sentence that it has been labelled in the past. Most people with diabetes live long and healthy lives with their condition. But the problem we have today is that people will be living longer with diabetes when detected earlier and we have to help them be healthy for longer. I will not lie, this requires commitment, hard work, dedication and perserverance. But with the right education and support, to keep you motivated, living a normal life with diabetes is possible.
I would encourage everyone to be screened for diabetes, a simple blood test with your GP can save your life. Many pharmacies hold screening days or have a screening service for diabetes, please do not run away when someone asks you would you like to be screened, take up the offer, again it could save your life. If you are at risk you should be screened yearly.
Diabetes Insight faciliates screenings within its own practice as well as a location near you. Next Diabetes Screening Day– Cappamore Pharmacy, Co. Limerick, Friday 27th January 2012, 11am-4pm. Contact us for further details.