A CALL has been made for Basotho to make healthy food and lifestyle choices to prevent the onset of diabetes and keep its complications at bay.
This was said by World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative Dr Cornelia Atsyor during World Health Day commemorations held on Thursday at Setsoto Stadium. Each year on 7 April, the world celebrates World Health Day to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948.
The theme of the commemorations this year was “Beat Diabetes”, with calls to step up prevention and treatment of the disease, which is directly impacting millions of people of globally, mostly in low and middle-income countries.
Diabetes is a non-communicable, chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose which may over time lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
According to Dr Atsyor, diabetes was a major cause of premature death and disability, with the number of people living with the disease having quadrupled within 15 years from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
“The African region has been worst hit with an eight fold rise from four million to 24 million (diabetic patients) during the same period,” she said.
“The sharp rise is mainly due to major lifestyle changes of reducing physical activity, increasing the intake of sugars and fatty food and use of tobacco.”
Dr Atsyor said 300ml of fizzy drinks and some fruit juices contained up to seven teaspoons of sugar.
“And how many of these drinks are consumed by individuals a day?” she asked the gathering rhetorically.
“It has become glamorous to take fizzy sugary drinks that are full of sugars. The fruit juices are no better. Soft drink companies are misleading the population to think that sugary drinks quench thirst. On the contrary, those drinks increase thirst due to their high sugar content.”
Dr Atsyor said diabetes and its complications brought about substantial economic loss to patients and their families as well as to health systems and national economies through direct medical costs and loss of work and wages.
“Diabetes imposes a substantial public health and socio economic burden in the face of scarce resources and Lesotho is no exception,” she said.
“WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.”
The burden of diabetes, Dr Atsyor said, could be reduced through simple lifestyle measures such as achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet by avoiding sugar and saturated fats as well as avoiding using tobacco.
“It is important that people are empowered to make these healthy choices,” she said.
“There is also a need for early diagnosis and management of diabetes at all levels of health system and ensuring availability of medication and laboratory reagents.”
Health Minister Dr Molotsi Monyamane echoed the sentiments, saying to prevent diabetes Basotho should eat food high in fibre, remove fat from meat before cooking and drink low fat milk.
“It is very important to prevent diseases before they can attack us because prevention is better than cure,” the minister said.
There are two main forms of the diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes typically make none of their own insulin and therefore require insulin injections to survive. People with type 2 diabetes, the form that comprises some 90 percent of cases, usually produce their own insulin, but not enough or they are unable to use it properly. People with type 2 diabetes are typically overweight and sedentary, two conditions that raise a person’s insulin needs.