Jamaica Magazine

Diabetes and You

Diabetes and the Ministry

It was identified at a recent conference that diabetes is of growing concern in Jamaica. Diabetes and other chronic diseases account for more than 50 percent of deaths in the country. It is one of the top five reasons for hospital visits in Jamaica.

The Ministry of Health has developed a national strategic plan that will address nutrition-related conditions (including diabetes). One of the main focuses of this plan is to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

While the Ministry of Health is doing its part to reduce the risk of diabetes among Jamaicans, you can find out more about diabetes by reading below.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that develops when the body’s fuel system is not working properly. Basically, your body will be unable to process starches, carbohydrates and sugar properly. If this condition is left untreated, the result is high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Glucose enters your body’s cells with the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells.

Quick Look at Glucose: Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy foods like yam, rice, potatoes, and plantains. It is the most basic fuel of the body. One of the most obvious signs of diabetes is a high level of sugar in the blood.

There are two different types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin dependent diabetes, occurs when your body is unable to make insulin. It usually affects people under the age of 40. People with Type 1 diabetes need daily insulin injections to manage their condition.

Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, occurs when your body is still able to produce insulin, but not enough to keep the blood glucose levels normal, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. It usually affects people over the age of 40, although it can appear in people younger than 40 from the Caribbean. Type 2 diabetes can often be controlled through medications and/or diet and exercise modifications.

What we know it as? Many Jamaicans refer to diabetes as “Sugar”.

Who’s at Risk?

Family history is linked to diabetes. Having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes puts you at risk of developing this condition. Additionally, if you answer “yes” to any of the following, you may be at risk.

  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you have high blood pressure or
    heart disease?
  • Are you Latino or of African or Asian
  • Do you have any of the following diabetes
    symptoms below?

Some warning signs of diabetes include :

Increased thirst

Increased urination

Weight loss (with no changes in appetite)

Blurred vision


Slow healing cuts and bruise

Tingling or numbness in hands or feet

Many people however who have Type 2 diabetes may not display any symptoms. If you think you are at risk or experiencing any of the above symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider about getting tested.

Are you newly diagnosed?

Then you may have questions about your type of diabetes, what to eat, how to check your blood sugar.

For answers to your question, visit the interactive Diabetes Learning Center from the American Diabetes Association.


How is Diabetes Treated?

Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Diabetes is managed in the following ways:

Medication: Some medications help your body make insulin while others slow down the amount of glucose (sugar) released into your blood. Some adults may need insulin shots. For more on insulin and diabetes medication (including giving yourself insulin), click here.

Lifestyle Managements: Many people can control diabetes though lifestyle changes like losing weight, eating healthy and exercising regularly.

Preventing Complications

Diabetes can lead to complications. However, in addition to eating healthy and increasing your exercise activities, getting your regular check-ups may help to prevent serious health problems from developing.

What you should get checked?

  • Get a dilated eye exam yearly from your doctor.
  • At every doctor visit, have your blood pressure checked.
  • Get a blood cholesterol check at least once a year.
  • Get a complete foot exam from your doctor at least once a year (more often if you have foot problems). You can check your feet yourself daily for cuts, blisters, redness and swelling.

Did You Know?

According to the International Diabetes Federation:

  • Diabetes is the most common cause of amputation which is not the result of an accident.
  • Diabetes is particularly common in ageing populations and is increasing in proportion to the number of people living longer.
  • Diabetes increased by one-third during the 1990s, due to the prevalence of obesity and an aging population.

Where Can You Get More Information?

About the author

Deidre Patterson, MPH