An epidemic on the rise

Monique Chiasson
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When John Kamphuis made an appointment with his doctor he knew something was wrong. His evidence: he was constantly thirsty, more so than normal. His diagnosis: Type 2 diabetes.

My first thought was oh no, said Kamphuis, 65, of Truro. Its the unknown that bothers you. You hear about it ... but its different when you have to manage it.

The disease did run in Kamphuiss family so he was somewhat familiar with diabetes. However, personal knowledge and education is what he relies on for continued health.

The patient has to take charge; you cant rely on the doctor to do everything, he said.

Kamphuiss diagnosis was in 1994 and since then, his use of insulin and medication, regular diet and exercise are keeping him healthy. But it all comes down to education.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and the message from diabetic centres is simple: live a healthier lifestyle and know about diabetes because anyone can be diagnosed with it.

Maureen Topley, patient care leader at the Colchester East Hants Health Authoritys Diabetes Centre, said the rates of people being diagnosed in Colchester East Hants, Cumberland and Pictou counties are on the rise. Topleys latest statistics (2005) indicate 2,063 people have the disease in Cumberland; 2,442 in Pictou; and 3,357 in Colchester East Hants.

Its an epidemic, said Topley, and the more knowledge you have, the better management you have ... Education is important because many people have diabetes and dont know they have it (and) there are people at high risk that (early) intervention could prevent it.

Esther Gould, nurse educator and co-ordinator of the Diabetic Centre in Amherst, believes more people, especially the younger generation, will contract diabetes. Diabetes can be hereditary, but can also appear from unhealthy lifestyles.

Theres a huge problem coming in the future, especially children, because bad habits are starting at an early age, said Gould. The occurrence is increasing because of lifestyle. People are eating more fast food, exercising less, and lots of jobs are sedentary.

It doesnt help that some people are oblivious to their unhealthy condition.

Theres denial at first because (people) cant feel it so they dont understand they are not in good health. Theres quite often no pain.

There are many ways to become educated on diabetes: contacting local diabetic centres, libraries, doctors offices and even television programming. Diabetes: A Global Epidemic airs Dec. 2. Check local listings for the show, which examines the disease and what is being done to confront it around the world.

Organizations: Colchester East Hants Health Authoritys Diabetes Centre, Diabetic Centre

Geographic location: Truro, Colchester East Hants, Pictou Amherst

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