Glucofingertip“Mama, how come your mout’ so long?” Little Pig asked innocently.

“Just wait till you grow up,”  Mama Pig answered, “and you’ll find out!”

Diabetes is like that. It may be a nuisance to keep up with and it doesn’t really hurt in the present. Not until the disease ‘grows up’ in a patient over the years do we find out the harvest of ill effects. Every now and again, we are shocked to hear of some young person having to go on dialysis, or of some dear middle-aged person getting a stroke or amputated. Instead of ‘acts of God’ coming out of nowhere, these are largely the direct consequences the things we do and don’t do.

Readers of the diabetes article a couple weeks aback know how deceitful and deadly it is. So much so, Dr. Max Pemberton is a British AIDS specialist compared exploding ravages of diabetes to advances made in his own field. He went as far as to declare: “I’d rather have HIV than Diabetes.” Our gut reaction is “What nonsense mister talking there, nuh!” But if you read the article, you have no choice but see where he is coming from.

You see; if diabetes were a contagious disease, health officials would be way more freaked out about it than Ebola. Yet long after that lethal virus has disappeared from the headlines, the specter of diabetes will continue to stalk the world at exponential speed. And Dominica is right up there, in the thick of things. That is why it was so gratifying to see all the people who came to check their HbA1C – the best indicator of whether we have diabetes or about to. Did you?

Some people have Type 1 diabetes where the pancreas, which produces insulin, is destroyed by some weird autoimmune condition. That’s a done deal over which we have little or no control other than taking insulin shots or pump or pancreas transplant. The majority of diabetics today have Types 2 disease, resulting from insulin resistance and overworked pancreas. That is treated with pills like Metformin and lifestyle changes. But can it be cured?

Fr. Franklyn Cuffy, Nurse Priscilla Prevost

Fr. Franklyn Cuffy, Nurse Priscilla Prevost

Government health promotion on a large scale does as good a job as it can. However, like witnessing for the gospel or canvassing for politics, the message is most effective one on one. Doctors can order all the tests and prescribe all the medicines, but it takes champions in NGO’s and civil society to smash the ball over the boundary. This was precisely the consensus of a big regional conference on non-communicable diseases this week at Fort Young Hotel. So let’s review how we go about taking down diabetes:

  1. Weight is the single most important contributing factor to Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the risk seven fold. Obesity (BMI over 30) makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a healthy weight. In this new era of fat acceptance, celebration of so-called ‘good size’ simply defeats the purpose.

A man with a waist over 40 inches is in deep trouble. No disrespect, the same applies for women with waists measuring more than 35. Evidence-based science says so. Don’t have a tape measure? Use a belt or string then a ruler. You can also use your height to check the health of your weight.

  1. TV /computers / video games: No age group is immune. The more one becomes a slave to modern technology, the more the pounds pile on. Statistics show that every two hours spent on these activities daily increases the risk of developing diabetes by 20 percent. While awake, every hour or two we need to get up and do something practical in the real world. A coach potato is either depressed, diabetes-prone, or both.
  1. Shun Sugary drinks, including the generally over-sweetened local fruit juices. Too much sugar is a poison. It is simply childish to regularly drink soft drinks. We take in as many calories from what we drink as from what we eat. To lose weight, drink more water. Coffee and tea are good choices if not spoiled with lots of cream and sugar. Since I published the dangers of sugar substitutes in 2007, many others have confirmed that. Artificial sweeteners help to some extent, but are definitely not the answer. Focus instead on increasing fruits and vegetables, provisions and high fiber cereals like oats.
  1. Avoid trans fats. Granted that is not at the top of the agenda in times of sewo like Creole Festival. However, for some lucky persons, that is precisely the time when they may be open to listening to a different tune. Trans fats are found in packaged baked goods and fried stuff from fast food restaurants. Take omega 3 and fish oil supplements. Avoid red meat in favor of fish or chicken. Frequently eating processed meats like bacon, ham, hotdogs, sausages, corned beef and canned stuff increases diabetes risk by 51%! Re-program your tastes. Do not just go with the flow of what is traditionally considered hearty eating.
  1. Dominica Diabetes Association. Listen to Fr. Cuffy a tireless promoter of the work of the association. He tells, for example, of how the addition of ginger has contributed impressively to his 30 years long control of the disease. Wherever you are, he encourages you to attend a Blue Breakfast and related activities on World Diabetes Day on November 14. (Not red/blue politics; think UN-sponsored, sky, universal).

Serious about diabetes prevention and cure? Plan to attend Nurse Prevost’s unique weekend retreat at Portsmouth. The guiding principle is based on III John:3: “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” Her vast experience and success nationally and regionally is not based on magical healing, but patient, practical, step-by-step instructions on needed lifestyle changes. Book your reservation by calling 245-6373. You will be so glad you did.

Bottom line, we need to strip off the hysteria and honestly look at the numbers. As we speak, understand that diabetes is killing multiplied millions more than AIDS and Ebola combined. What we ate today, and ‘these Thy gifts which are about to receive,’ will either take us one step closer or away from that diagnosis.

Indeed, Mama Pig is right. We will soon find out. Diabetes is an enemy coming in like the flood. It is my job to stop it – Nurse Prevost’s, Fr. Cuffy’s and yours too, by the way.

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