Obesity, physical inactivity put women at excess risk of diabetes

Diabetes: a blood glucose test is used to check the level of sugar in the blood of this woman. Photo: WHO/PAHO/Sebastián Oliel
Diabetes: a blood glucose test is used to check the level of sugar in the blood of this woman. Photo: WHO/PAHO/Sebastián Oliel

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 17 November 2017.   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 responsible for high rates of complications, such as lower limb amputation.

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

CARPHA Director for Surveillance, Prevention and Control Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg has 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.

The theme for World Diabetes Day 2017 is Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future.  CARPHA joins the rest of the world to highlight women’s right to a healthy future. It is imperative for persons to place their health before personal preferences, and all women are encouraged to pay particular attention to maintaining a healthy body weight and waist size. Healthy eating, physical activity and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

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 continues to support member states in their efforts to minimize the impact of diabetes.  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.  (CARICOM Public Health Agency Press Release)