Despite killing 24 people every minute worldwide, there is an inadequate awareness of diabetes amongst Namibians, a medical doctor has told New Era.
According to a family physician Dr Matthew Mojekwu, diabetes is on the increase because families have abandoned their traditional cuisine. “How many people still take time to prepare oshifima and ombidi (pap and spinach)?” asked Mojekwu.
Mojekwu, the founder of the Diabetes Association of Namibia, added that people have also abandoned physical activity. “Our lifestyle has changed, especially after independence. There is no exercise anymore,” commented Mojekwu.
There are two types of diabetes; Type 1 and Type 2. The latter is common in people with poor lifestyle choices that are deprived of exercise and healthy eating, he explained.
“If people could modify that (their lifestyle), diabetes cases in the country would decrease, said Mojekwu, but it is difficult to change people’s lifestyle habits, he admitted. Therefore, people should be self-motivated to achieve their health goals.
Meanwhile, 85-year-old Gabriel Kandjengo agrees that choosing healthy lifestyle habits can prolong the life of a diabetic.
In 1985 Kandjengo was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.
It has been 31 years since and he is still alive and active, the old man said with a sense of pride.
His secret? Apart from divine intervention, Kandjengo said he had to change his lifestyle for the better. “Some of the people who were diagnosed with me are no more,” said the old man.
He says at the time of his diagnosis, he was clueless as to what causes diabetes. “The doctors told me to stop eating sugary foods and red meat,” said Kandjengo, who could not say whether he was diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
“I changed my lifestyle completely and I still go for regular check-ups,” said Kandjengo. He advised diabetics to adhere to their doctors’ advice in order to remain healthy.
“People should be ready to change their lifestyles, which includes adhering to a healthy diet and physical activity,” said the octogenarian.
Eating more fruit and vegetables
Mojekwu said fruit and vegetables can be easily accessed and can contribute to general wellbeing if eaten regularly. “People can even plant vegetables in their backyards,” he said.
“Fruit and vegetables are not expensive. It’s more accessible and it’s more attractive, but people prefer fast foods because they do not want to take the time to prepare their own foods and this is one of the reasons why diabetes is on the increase,” said Mojekwu.
New Era also spoke to a street vendor, who sells fruit and vegetables close to an intersection in Havana, Windhoek. The 27-year old Zimbabwean national, Tony Diamond, said people in the area and neighbouring locations, such as Goreangab buy fruit and vegetables from his stand.
He sells at relatively affordable prices. For example, one carrot costs N$1.50; a cabbage is N$10 and apples sell for N$2 apiece.
“People should form the habit of eating fruit and vegetables, because of their nutritional value,” he remarked. Diamond also believes a healthy lifestyle can contribute to the overall wellbeing of people.
“Per day I eat two apples and I believe fruit and vegetables are cheap and therefore, I’m encouraging people to develop that habit,” he said.
According to the 2013 Namibia Demographic and Health survey, the latest such report by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the likelihood of developing diabetes increases with age among women.
In addition, the report shows that women in urban areas are twice as likely as rural women to suffer diabetes.
“By region, women in the Hardap Region have the highest prevalence of diabetes and women in the Kavango Region have the lowest prevalence of the disease,” reads the report.
“The prevalence of diabetes is highest among women with more than a secondary education and women in the highest wealth quintile,” according to the report, which notes that diabetes can over time damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.
“The global spread of diabetes has given it the characteristics of a pandemic,” reads the report in part.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month.