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» 18.06.2009 - Government dismisses swine flu cases
» 20.02.2009 - Meningitis under control – Health
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» 05.02.2008 - Uganda combats demons

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15 million diabetics in Africa by 2025

afrol News / Destination Santé, 22 January - The African continent has not escaped the powerful global rise in diabetes. Already hard hit by AIDS and malaria, it now has to deal with a growing number of diabetics - for example in Uganda, which has over a million diabetes sufferers out of a population of 28 million. The spread of Western lifestyle, with its following obesity, is to blame.

In 1972, only 254 Ugandans suffered from diabetes. As the number is now in excess of a million, it is not surprising that the Ministry of Health believes that "the problem is a serious one. People have changed their lifestyle," say the authorities. "They are less physically active. Instead of walking, they take their car."

And just as in the richer countries, one sufferer in two is unaware that he has diabetes. According to a Ugandan specialist, "the only explanation for this virtual epidemic of diabetes is the change of diet and a more sedentary lifestyle."

But is there anything particular about the Ugandan population? Maybe not the Ugandan, but African yes, there may well be. Specialists are referring increasingly to type 1B diabetes, also known as "African diabetes".

But what is this exactly? 1B diabetes is an atypical form of diabetes which particularly affects women and men of sub-Saharan origin. The disease, which initially resembles type I diabetes, gradually develops into the more severe type II diabetes.

According to Professor Jean-François Gautier, a diabetes specialist at the Saint-Louis hospital in France, the continent of Africa "must make diabetes a public health priority in the same way as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria." And with good reason. As in the developed world, there is an explosion in the number of people who are overweight or obese. The International Diabetes Federation believes that the number of sufferers will increase from 7 million in 2003 to 15 million in 2025.

The problem is that Africa is not ready to take up the challenge this presents to public health. There is a lack of suitable structures in place, a shortage of qualified staff, insufficient means for screening for the disease, etc. Africa is struggling to contain the epidemic. And before one can tackle diabetes, first one needs to screen for it.

Only a rapid response to tackling the disease - change in diet, medical treatment - and early cholesterol monitoring will prevent the vascular problems associated with the disease.

Not forgetting, of course, that diabetics need to manage their condition, keeping a close watch on their eyes, and their feet. Diabetes causes vascular complications that can lead to blindness. And it also increases considerably the risk of developing lesions, with serious complications - even requiring amputation. First a foot, then one leg, then the other. Diabetics should sure their doctor examines their feet at least once a year.

And contrary to received wisdom, diabetics should make physical exercises. Especially if they are overweight. Walking, running or gardening - just a little exercise will help to lower the sugar level in your blood. This is a major concern for diabetics because it cannot be regulated by diet alone, however balanced this may be.

If you suffer from type II diabetes, you don't need to take any special precautions - except of course, like everyone, have a medical check-up before you start exercising. For type I diabetics, on the other hand, additional expenditure of energy can pose a problem. But don't worry! Your doctor will recommend a suitable diet. This will include complex glucids - pasta, starchy foods - before exercise and simple glucids during exercise, if continuing for any length of time.

When it comes to choosing your sport, there is a wide range available. Swimming, cycling, gym work. Also remember those little things that can make all the difference - for example, leave the car at home, take the stairs not the lift, get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way, and of course make your body a smoking-free zone.

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