The International Diabetes Federation estimates that there are 1.5 million undiagnosed people in South Africa. Are you one of them?
Nearly two million South Africans are diabetic, but that number could double if undiagnosed people screen for diabetes. Richard Johnson Co-Founder and COO of Guidepost, a diabetes management organisation, says the condition is frustrating, because it can go undetected for many years if people don’t screen regularly. Once detected, it needs a drastic lifestyle change, which many patients don’t commit to.
“Type 2 diabetes mellitus – the type you develop through lifestyle factors – specifically requires intensive behaviour change in addition to treatment plan adoption, adherence and persistence,” he says.
At a basic level, it means the blood sugar levels are high and the symptoms could include thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, blurred vision and increased hunger or appetite.
Importantly, the blood sugar levels could be elevated but not show any symptoms, which is why the condition often goes undetected.
Johnson says only testing and screening can determine if the blood sugar or glucose levels are normal. He adds that type 2 diabetes, which is the type of diabetes up to 90% of people develop, can be predicted by poor diet, obesity and a lack of physical activity. This means that despite South Africans being at high-risk for developing the disease, we simply don’t test for it. Unfortunately, the result is that the condition gets worse over time and it can lead to a myriad of conditions, including heart and vascular issues.
Now that I am diabetic, what do I do?
Johnson said people with diabetes should be supported to manage the condition – it isn’t something you can do alone.
“For the doctor treating the patient with diabetes, there is insufficient time during a consultation to adequately train and equip the patient to deal with the complexities of managing diabetes, especially for patients who are newly diagnosed. For patients, poorly controlled diabetes can lead to reduced quality of life and shortened life expectancy related complications of diabetes such as heart disease, chronic kidney disease and amputations,” says Johnson.
Johnson says the condition needs to be managed carefully, but to start, people with diabetes need to understand their condition in detail. Then, they can build skills to manage it that include monitoring, psychological coping, risk reduction, nutrition and physical activity. “They also have to make changes to their habits and behaviours to sustain healthy change.”
“While there is much to do, a team of doctors and coaches working collaboratively, with the patient at the center of the discussion, has proven to be a powerful and effective way to improve outcomes and reduce the healthcare burden of diabetes management,” says Johnson.
Read more about assistance with diabetes management at https://guidepost.net/za/
If you or your team need help to manage your condition, get guidance from a healthcare professional. You also have access to Healthy Company, Discovery’s digitally enabled comprehensive employee assistance programme. It identifies health risks and proactively gives employees and their immediate family support, advice and educational tools to help manage your health and wellbeing. It focuses on four key elements of wellbeing: emotional, financial, physical wellbeing and legal support.
Find out more about Healthy Company on our website. Our multi-skilled coaches are here to help you every step of the way.
The South African workforce is amongst the most stressed in the world, according to a Bloomberg Business survey which rated our stress levels second, only to Nigeria.
It is important that employers understand the cost of present but disengaged employees on business and ultimately the impact of poor health on a company’s bottom line.