Beating diabetes, one choice at a time

A friend of mine who does work in diabetes clinics in Africa several times a year recently told me that he was going to Qatar to do the same thing. I was surprised by this announcement. Not because Qatar is in the Middle East–but because diabetes is a significant enough problem there to warrant his intervention.

But it’s true. Apparently, the Middle East is another place we’ve exported our diabetes epidemic to.

Five of the 10 countries with the highest diabetes rates are located in the Gulf region, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Kuwait ranks No. 3 on that list. In fact, more than one in five Kuwaitis suffer from diabetes. That’s actually double the rate in the United States.

The problem is so widespread in Kuwait that an endocrinologist working at Mubarak al-Kabeer Hospital in the country, recently commented that “it is now normal for half a dinner party to be diabetic and for them to ask for each other’s medication after they eat.”

I’m sorry, but in what universe is that “normal”? Yet, sadly, that is where this epidemic is leading us.

It is not OK to share medications after a meal. Or to use them as “Band-aids” to make up for poor eating habits. But many diabetics right here in this country have admitted to me that they eat whatever they want and then just take more medication to “make up” for it.

What people don’t seem to understand is that diabetes medications aren’t cure-alls. And they’re not without side effects. I’ve told you about some of the more dangerous risks involved with these drugs in recent Reality Health Checks (“Diabetes drugs linked to vision problems” and “Urgent warning for anyone taking Actos“). But one of the lesser known side effects of these medications is obesity. Which makes it even more difficult to control your blood sugar.

Talk about a vicious cycle.

It is a situation that is spiraling out of control, and I truly don’t think people grasp how serious the problem is becoming. We’re quickly reaching the point where it will be too late to stop this runaway train.

Governments worldwide are reacting to the problem by launching public awareness campaigns. These campaigns are supposed to encourage healthy diets, exercise, and early medical testing. Which is all fine and good. But it’s going to take more than awareness and encouragement to beat this epidemic.

It’s time for each and every one of us–whether you have diabetes or not–to take action NOW. Make better choices starting today. With your very next meal or snack.

Choose not to eat the bread from that sandwich. Choose a bag of nuts over a bag of pretzels. Choose water instead of soda.

These are all decisions that are completely within your control. And, let’s be honest here. None of them require Herculean effort.

But even these small choices will add up. To a smaller waistline, better blood sugar control, and–eventually, if we’re all consistent–an END to the diabetes epidemic.

Stick with me, and we will beat it. One choice at a time.