One casual afternoon in January, 2018 in Kaloleni area, my aunt began complaining of severe headaches, blurred vision and fatigue which I didn’t consider serious. My thoughts were that her old age was actually the cause. Due to her persistency we decided to visit the hospital and that’s when my ignorance was proven wrong. She, Mrs. Muthengi, was diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus- a group of metabolic disease in which one has high blood sugar, either due to less insulin production, or because the body’s cells do not respond well to insulin.
Research shows that two in every five women suffer from it due to unhealthy lifestyles. This is where people mostly from the urban areas are not careful on monitoring whatever they consume. However, women are not the only ones prone to this deadly illness as other findings reveal that men have a higher risk of getting diagnosed with it and heart disease due to accumulation of fat around the abdomen.
According to Dr. Nancy Ngugi, a consultant physician and specialist on hormones in Nairobi, there are about 4.2 million Kenyans with type II Diabetes and that 28% of hospital admissions are patients battling it. This percentage was proven to be true when 8,500 diabetic patients made visits to Kenyatta National Hospital in 2011.
Majority of the people undermine this illness and fail to look at the financial psychology, emotional and physical torture that affects both the patient and their family too. We experienced this challenges as well during my aunt’s time and had to purchase the costly medicine needed for her treatment. Not only did this treatment put a financial strain on the pockets of every family member but it also psychologically and emotionally affected each and every one of us.
Providently, diabetes can be treated and managed through proper diet. The Kenya National Diabetes Educators Manual developed by the Ministry of Health in 2010 states that, all dietary modification is a cornerstone of diabetes management and should be the first step in dealing with it.
“ People with high risk of developing type II diabetes can reduce their chances of getting the disease by up to 50% if they lose as few as 4 Kg,”says Dr. Muriithi. Furthermore proper diet and physical exercise are also paramount to the management of the illness.
You hold the keys to managing your diabetes by:
- Planning what you eat and following a balanced meal plan
- Exercising regularly
- Taking medication, if prescribed, and closely following the guidelines on how and when to take it
- Monitoring your blood glucose
- Keeping your appointments with your healthcare providers and having laboratory tests completed as ordered by your doctor.
Hopefully, all is not lost as the Diabetes Kenya Association (DKA) is aware of the fact that its education accounts for 50% of the disease’s treatment. Consequently, DKA organizes annual events which involve free blood sugar screening, educational and prevention camps, training workshops for patients and healthcare professionals as well as other activities that help to create awareness on the increasing cases and the seriousness of diabetes.
After months of medication, Mrs. Muthengi has now found solace in dietary treatment and hence salvaged her from the danger zone making her an ambassador for healthy eating.