Sunday 24 March, 2019

Obesity puts Caribbean women at risk for diabetes

Caribbean women face a higher risk of getting Diabetes compared to men, as they suffer from one of the major contributing factors to getting the disease – obesity. 

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) shared the concern via statement in recognition of World Diabetes Day 2017, celebrated on November 14. This year's theme is "Women and diabetes - our right to a healthy future".

CARPHA said some Caribbean women are obese based on their body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A person with a BMI that is 30 or greater is considered obese.

The risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes are obesity (Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥30) which is the strongest modifiable risk factor for the disease in the Caribbean, abdominal obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking, unhealthy diets and metabolic syndrome. 

CARPHA Director for Surveillance, Prevention and Control Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg said, “Studies have revealed that women in the Caribbean have higher rates of obesity in terms of BMIs compared to men.  They also have higher rates of abdominal obesity, and likely to be 3 times more obese than men.” She also stated that, “Obesity and physical inactivity put women at excess risk of diabetes. This is confirmed by the very high levels of diabetes among women in the Region.” 

Women with diabetes have more difficulty conceiving and may have poor pregnancy outcomes.  During pregnancy, high blood glucose substantially increases the health risk of mother and child.  The combination of maternal obesity and diabetes have also been linked to increased risk for the child to develop diabetes during adolescence. 

Diabetes, a major contributor to premature death, is estimated to affect 10-15% of the adult population in the Caribbean Region. The disease is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke and is responsible for high rates of complications, such as lower limb amputation.

For those already affected, diabetes can be treated, and its consequences avoided or delayed with medication, regular screening and treatment for complications. Every adult should monitor their health status regularly. 

Dr. Asin-Oostburg said, “We urge you to visit your doctor or a health facility to get screened for diabetes. Following your diabetes treatment regimen and keeping your blood glucose under control is important to avoid serious complications of the disease.”  

CARPHA said it continues to support member states in their efforts to minimize the impact of diabetes, adding that the Agency is also actively working with partners regionally and internationally including non-governmental organizations to reduce risk factors and chronic diseases in the region.

In addition, CARPHA is collaborating with institutions and agencies within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region to impact trade agreements and influence the availability and access to healthy foods.  

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