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My sadness and anger at diabetes crisis, by writer Doreen

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Doreen Gatien 100One in seven people on St Helena has diabetes – one of the highest rates for the disease on the planet. The scale of the crisis moved DOREEN GATIEN, a Saint writer now living in California, to make a cry from the heart.  

To say that I am really sorry to hear about the diabetes statistics at home is an understatement.

When I visited home, I would be both sad and angry at some of the reports from people about simple testing that is absolutely necessary, but not available. For example, mammograms.

Friends told me, “I guess they don’t have the money.” Oh, really?  I asked them, why wouldn’t the women in St Helena have access to this very important testing? Who was responsible?

We wondered why such an increase in St Helena in this disease, and that it was not caught until it reached an advanced stage! Are we still wondering?

Studies show that patients with diabetes have an increased risk of breast and uterine cancers. I am unsure if mammogram testing has since become available.

So, here I am again in 2013, with these same emotions: sadness and anger, as a nurse and as a Christian.

I am asking again, what or who is responsible for the outrageous number of diabetes patients? Is it diet alone?

Dealing with diabetes can be a strain: keeping up with daily care, and worrying about your future health. It takes strength, support and motivation to stay ahead.

I also grew up eating too many sugars. The island did not have access to as many different foods as it has now. So suckers, chocolates, sweets, iced cakes and many more of the like were our treats.

But now I am aware that complex carbohydrates are better choices than sugar. Now I always read labels.

Be aware there are “hidden” sugars in foods such as soft drinks (drink water instead), canned fruit, chocolate cake, chocolates, ice cream, jam and many more. 

And as you thank your merchants for what they are already doing to help with the diabetes crisis, I encourage you to request lots more healthy imported foods, and remember it is always better to pay a little more, because as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” 

So as I ponder the sad and deathly health situation at home, here is what I can share from afar. You might know all of this already, but I am sending it anyway with all of the love and deep concern in my heart, from a fellow Saint:

  • The first step to coping is acceptance
  • Each of the treatment tools for diabetes has a purpose, and each is important
  • Exercise: first element needed in a comprehensive diabetes lifestyle (we have such a beautiful island to walk over, easy access to the ocean and swimming pool, Jacobs Ladder – only 699 steps. Smile: you don’t have to do all)
  • Proper diet: using good sources of soluble and insoluble fibre

For diabetics, a high-carbohydrate, high-fibre diet:

  • Reduces levels of serum cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Reduces blood pressure in those with hypertension
  • Reduces risk of death from heart disease
  • Improves gastrointestinal function
  • Reduces body weight in the obese
  • Reduces risk of kidney damage
  • Reduces insulin requirements
  • Improves glycemic control.

Often our fear of change is driven by ignorance. Find a good cookbook, ask questions.

Remember, a healthy lifestyle is rewarding for diabetics and non-diabetics. And above all, fresh foods and wholefoods will always be the best choice in helping you to win the fight against the dreaded diabetes.

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