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The important role of family support for diabetes self-management

Recently, the rapid breeding of the violin spider in Cape Town – allegedly due to good rain and hot weather…

Recently, the rapid breeding of the violin spider in Cape Town – allegedly due to good rain and hot weather – was reported to be the latest bluff to spread like a fires on social media, causing major concerns and some degree of panic.

This phenomenon of “false news” applies equally to the museum of miraculous remedies triggered for chronic diseases that social media users now confront with almost every day. For example, I recently sent a WhatsApp message as flaunting the next miracle cure: “For diabetics, cut the ends of a few okra, put a cup of water overnight, take the next day away okra and drink the water … Diabetes will go Testing on humans, the results, according to the test, are miraculous! A volunteer said their blood sugar decreased from 1

6 to 8. Share this because it helps many !! ”

Sound Health Care

Such examples warn about the significant dangers caused by false health news such as miracle cures, magic diets and untested herbal medicines are continuously circulated (and recycled!) On social media platforms with its vast tentacles, communities and families reach even the most remote areas.

This year, the International Diabetes Association’s (IDF) World Diabetes Day (14 November) focuses on the family: “Diabetes affects all families: can you detect the warning signs?” “It raises the exciting issue that families can really play a meaningful role in countering fake health news while providing good health care advice and support for relatives who are saddled with diabetes.

Previous research showed that strong family support can really play a positive role in helping diabetes patients better manage blood sugar levels, managing stress

A good starting point for family engagement is to get a better understanding of the nature of the disease, such as risk factors and symptoms. This empowerment process should include the purchase of appropriate information from well established and reputable experts and / or professional organizations such as IDF and others.

Well-informed individuals will then be able to play a decisive role in helping counteract dangerous false health news releases circulated on social media, and especially in the family chat groups. Procedures can also contribute to prevent serious complications that may occur from diabetic people who actually perform unsubstantiated advice. In this case, an important awareness of the need for verification of all health information circulated on social media platforms is crucial. In addition to specialist websites of professional agencies, broader fact-checking sites like and / or hoax-slayer can be consulted.

The Growing Global Burden

As one of two people currently living with diabetes remains undiagnosed, a greater understanding of known symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, lack of energy, blurred vision, Slow healing wounds and numbness in the feet and hands should help better address this problem. Informed family members can also provide the necessary emotional support, encourage activities to reduce stress / depression and promote improved lifestyle choices to help ensure improved well-being in their diabetics.

Note that 80% of diabetes is preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle – adequate exercise and physical activity together with balanced nutrition intake. For example, as several studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of future diabetes and is also associated with improved blood glucose control. This is a good starting point.

Interpersonal Relationship Decisive

Family members can also provide practical help eg. help with insulin injections and / or provide transportation for doctor’s appointments as required. Ideally, such support should be shared fairly between family members in order to ultimately ensure the patient’s physical and mental well-being and limit the occurrence of stressful situations. However, there should be a strong sense of realism in setting goals for lifestyle changes to be followed and current family members should not be too ambitious as this can lead to stress and potential conflict.

Is diabetes still a problem to be worried about on World Diabetes Day 2018? The answer is unfortunately a resounding “yes!”. Here, the continued adoption of more sedentary lifestyle choices, poor dietary intake and increased stress continues to be a significant contributor to the growing global burden of diabetes. Future forecasts also indicate that developing countries, including South Africa, will suffer the hardest with significant consequences in terms of public health, rising healthcare costs and potential impact on economic growth and development.

Coordinated efforts (as mentioned above) are needed to counter such disturbing statistics and forecasts. Interestingly, the 80-year Harvard Study of Adult Development found that interpersonal relationships are strongly linked to life and happiness. Thus, it is a suitable time to support the IDF’s theme to focus on the role of family relationships to help improve self-management of diabetes patients and also to help promote their physical and emotional well-being.

(Prof Faadiel Essop is a full professor at the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University and current chairman of the Physiology Society of Southern Africa.)

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