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The bitter truth about diabetes frightens

Dr Manish Khanolkar – The bitter truth-Dr Manish Khanolkar

Late last year, Diabetes New Zealand launched its first ‘Diabetes Action Month,’ imploring Kiwis to own up, step up and stop turning a blind eye to the country’s fastest growing health crisis, the worrying rise of diabetes.

It is a message that the Indian community of New Zealand needs to hear.

Diabetes is a blight on New Zealand and much of the Western World.

Healthcare storm

The bitter truth-Diabetes riskLifestyles, lack of exercise and bad eating habits have all contributed to a perfect healthcare storm affecting people, families and communities.

The number of New Zealanders living with diabetes has doubled from 125,000 to 250,000 in ten years, with 40 new diagnoses every day.

There is a further estimated 1.1 million people with pre-diabetes and a high risk of developing the disease.

The potential cost of managing this is staggering.

A person of 40 years, who is diagnosed with diabetes, will cost the health service an estimated $1 million.  It does not take a mathematics genius to conclude this is a health and economic problem we cannot afford.

Wake up!

The Indian and South Asian community needs to wake up to this call as diabetes is one of its main health challenges.

There are around 13,000 South Asian people in New Zealand living with diabetes, just under 10% of the total community and the rate is rising.

The main issue is a big change in our lifestyle.  We exercise less and eat too much of the wrong foods. Poor diet rich in calories is a particularly important factor in the South Asian community.

Food inglorious food!

Our food traditions mean that we are very good at celebrating with food and we eat excessive amounts of refined carbs like white rice, potatoes and sugar laden foods.

Historically, our bodies have been used to eating less but now we live in a country with plentiful food.  We do not exercise enough, because it just is not part of our lifestyle.

Our genes do not help either. Although typically we may not always appear very overweight, we have a tendency to deposit fat centrally and inside organs such as the liver and this is detrimental to our health.

I urge people to take more responsibility to learn about their health, understand the risks of diabetes and take more preventative action.

There are plenty of things people can do such as ensuring that they are screened for diabetes. We can also drink water instead of fruit juices, reduce refined carbohydrates such as white rice and potatoes, eat less and exercise more.

It sounds simple but sticking to this regimen is difficult – it is all about mindset and lifestyle change.

The growing issue of diabetes was noticed two years ago by YMCA Chief Executive Peter Fergusson and Pharmco (NZ) Limited Chief Executive Chandra Selvadurai.

While YMCA is committed to helping people manage their health through exercise and physical activity, Pharmaco is the primary supplier of blood glucose meters and test strips in New Zealand and is committed to making a difference to the lives of people with diabetes.

Jumpstart helps

Both of them agreed that a programme was needed to help people manage their health.

The result is ‘Jumpstart,’ an exercise, nutrition and lifestyle education programme for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Mr Fergusson said that Jumpstart gives people an opportunity to maintain their health when faced with the potential debilitating effects of diabetes.

“Jumpstart shows people there are ways to tackle this condition, which not only can improve people’s lives but sometimes can help halt or reverse the onset of diabetes.”

Mr Selvadurai, whose family originates from Sri Lanka, is passionate in his support for what Pharmaco sees as a vital programme to address this huge healthcare challenge.

“Anyone with a diabetes diagnosis can become dispirited. Jumpstart helps by giving people practical ways to manage their health and be in a community of peers with the same goals. We are a company with a belief that everything we do has to improve people’s lives.  Jumpstart fits this goal by giving people the confidence to stay healthy longer.”

Growing ‘graduates’

Operating at 11 YMCAs in Auckland and Hamilton over 250 people have graduated from Jumpstart so far.  While focused on two cities currently, a national roll-out is in future plans.

Jumpstart is a ten week programme costing $80 per person and is taught by the YMCA’s expert fitness staff.

For more information, please visit www.diabetes.org.nz

Please also contact YMCA in Auckland or the YMCA Hamilton City Leisure Centre. Phone: 0800-335666. Website: www.ymcaauckland.org.nz

Dr Manish Khanolkar is Consultant Physician, Diabetes and Endocrinology at the Auckland Diabetes and Endocrine Centre

Image courtesy: Diabetes New Zealand

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