Ditch the TV: Get out and get active —it will significantly reduce your chances of getting diabetes. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
Ditch the TV: Get out and get active —it will significantly reduce your chances of getting diabetes. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
Imagine if diabetes were an infectious disease, passed from one person to the next. 

The whole world would be tackling it and putting policies and procedures in place to prevent it. Diabetes is affecting more and more adults every day, as well as affecting teenagers and young children. In 2001, the projection for the world was 370 million people with diabetes by 2030. That estimate has now changed to 450 million.

If there were no complications associated with diabetes these numbers would be just that, numbers. However, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure among adults. It causes mild to severe nerve damage and coupled with diabetes related circulatory problems can lead to an amputation of a foot or limb. Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease and globally is the fourth leading cause of death.

Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Genetics play a role but are secondary to behavioural and lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, unhealthy meal plan, smoking and excess alcohol. There are now several studies that support the evidence that type 2 diabetes can be prevented such as the Nurses Study, the Diabetes Prevention Programme, the Finnish Study as well as the Da Quing Study in China. 

Achieving a healthy weight and being physically active can help prevent most cases of type 2 diabetes.

Put exercise first and turn off the television. Choose activities that you enjoy. It’s summer and it’s hot so a good time to go for that swim after work. For every two hours a night that you watch television your risk of developing diabetes goes up by twenty percent. Inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes. By working your muscles more often and making them work harder improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose.

• Eat healthy and choose foods that are rich in whole grains and avoid refined grains and sugary foods especially sugary drinks

A recent study published in the Lancet found that those with diabetes have decreased mobility and are unable to walk more than half a mile and have difficulty walking up a flight of stairs. The study also showed that people with diabetes have increased problems with getting out of bed, using the toilet, taking a bath and getting dressed. Part of the problem is being overweight which makes it difficult to do many of the activities related to everyday living.

In addition many with uncontrolled diabetes are at an increased risk for dementia as the higher than normal blood sugars damage the blood vessels that carry oxygen to the cells of the brain. This then directly affects the ability to do such things as using the telephone, grocery shop or manage one’s finances.

It is therefore extremely important that we do everything possible to prevent type 2 diabetes. People need to start eating a balanced diet and be more physically active.

So, think your drink and drink water. Exercise for at least half an hour every day and if you think it’s too hot to go outside treat yourself to a walking tape. These tapes are fun, easy to follow and in no time you will have walked for a mile in the house. Choose healthy food to eat. You have one chance to live a healthy life. Don’t throw it away. 

Debbie Jones is currently a vice president of the International Diabetes Federation and a diabetes nurse educator at the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Diabetes Education Centre. She writes a monthly diabetes column for the Bermuda Sun to help educate people about one of the island’s biggest killers.