Features — 21 November 2014 — by Albert J. Ciego
World Diabetes Day celebrated

BELIZE CITY–World Diabetes Day was observed on Friday, with a health fair conducted,by the Belize Diabetes Association, along with its supporting partners, to draw attention to the disease. The event was held at the Battlefield Park on Albert Street in Belize City, from 9:00 in the morning until about 4:00 in the evening, when it concluded. Many individuals stopped by the fair to get their blood sugar level checked, which is very important in diagnosing diabetes.

The theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day is “Healthy Living and Diabetes”. The year’s activities and materials specifically address the topic of healthy eating and its importance both in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and the effective management of diabetes to avoid complications.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, there are 382 million people living with diabetes worldwide. A further 316 million people are currently at high risk of developing type 2. These facts and figures reiterate the importance of urgent action. What makes the pandemic particularly menacing is that throughout much of the world, it remains hidden. Up to half of all people with diabetes globally remain undiagnosed. Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented and the serious complications of diabetes can be avoided through healthy lifestyles that encourage and facilitate healthy behavior.

Anthony Castillo, president of the Belize Diabetes Association, in an interview with Amandala on Friday, said that the event,  is a health fair to coincide with and to commemorate World Diabetes Day, concludes 14 days of activities which were held countrywide and  began on November 1. Within that time period, a Diabetes Walk and a Diabetes Ride were conducted, schools were visited by members of the association to educate students about the disease, and a public awareness campaign was conducted. Workplaces were also visited to educate the public about the disease. The aim of the various activities was to inform and educate the people about the disease, which is increasingly prevalent in the country.

Castillo said that people must be aware of the food they are eating. Healthy eating in Belize is a choice, because there is an abundance of vegetables, and other healthy foods for a balanced meal, as well as spaces within the landscape to do physical exercises.. He went on to note that those diagnosed with diabetes must eat a balanced meal, take their medication, and exercise, to avoid the complications of the disease.

The president strongly warns people not to be passive onlookers, and to do what they can to prevent diabetes, and if they have been diagnosed with the disease, to empower themselves with knowledge, and avoid losing any part of their body due to amputation. He said that people diagnosed with diabetes should not be ashamed of the disease, because it is not a death sentence. It requires being educated about the disease, and with physical exercises and the right diet, they can live a long and productive life.

This year’s theme, “Healthy Living and Diabetes,” will be the underlying focus of a campaign for the next three years, during which healthy eating will be encouraged in an effort to reduce the rate of increase of diabetes cases within the population.

Castillo urges the public, even those not suffering with the disease, to consult a dietician at one of the country’s health facilities, or at the Belize Diabetes Association, in order to get advice on choices of food, which they can purchase, as well as to receive recommendations for a diet based on their body mass index, which factors in their height and weight. He said that there is no “diabetic diet”. A healthy diet for a diabetic basically involves eating a balanced diet from all the food groups, he said. He noted that a shortcoming in Belize is the eating of excess carbohydrates and starches, which the body then converts to sugar.

According to the Belize Diabetes Association, diabetes is a condition that occurs when sugar in the blood is not being assimilated properly for use by the body, due to lack of or insufficient insulin to enable the body to do so. People are said to have diabetes if their AIC (as indicated by the results of a blood test) is 6.5% or above, the fasting blood sugar is found to be 126 mg/dl and above, the results of an Oral Glucose Test are 200 mg/dl and above, and a random blood sugar test shows a reading of 200 mg/dl and above.

The signs and symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, being thirsty more frequently than usual, being hungry more often than usual, being tired more often, as well as unusual weight loss, irritability, blurry vision, sexual problems, wounds that will not heal, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

Diabetics suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when the body makes little or no insulin. People with this type of diabetes must take insulin injections for the rest of their lives. It usually occurs in children and young adults; however, it can also occur in older people.

Type 2 diabetes is when the body prevents the insulin it produces from working the right way, or the body makes insufficient insulin. Most diabetics suffer from type 2 diabetes. This occurs in people who are older and are overweight. Eight out of 10 people who have this condition are overweight.

Diabetics and people needing education and support related to the management of diabetes are urged to contact the Belize Diabetes Association in Belize City for their assistance.

About 44,715 people, or 13.42% of the population of Belize, are living with diabetes, the disease called the “silent killer.” This statistic was released by the International Diabetes Federation. The Diabetes Federation also revealed that about 382 million people had diabetes in 2013, and by 2035, 592 million people will be suffering with the disease.

The number of people with Type 2 diabetes is also increasing in every country. Eighty percent of people with diabetes live in low-and middle-income families and the greatest number of people with diabetes are between ages 40 and 59 years.

According to recent statistics released in Belize, more people in the country die from diabetes than from violence yearly. Also, more people are living with diabetes than with HIV and AIDS in Belize.

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