By Dr. CHRISTOPHER J. MORGAN
Everyone reading this article knows someone with diabetes or high blood pressure.
Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions around the world and here in Canada. Today, more than 9 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes and, according to Health Canada, the number of people with diabetes is increasing by seven per cent, or more than 2 million each year. Globally, every 10 seconds two people develop diabetes, resulting in more than 285 million people being affected and, based on current trends, it is expected that 380 million will be affected by 2025.
The human cost of diabetes is devastating. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 80 per cent of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. It significantly increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, in fact 50 per cent of people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke. Due to damage to the nerves and small blood vessels, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for people over 20 and the number one cause of non-traumatic limb amputation. It is also among the leading causes of kidney failure, accounting for 10 – 20 per cent of diabetes deaths. Here is another alarming fact – the overall risk of dying among people with diabetes is at least double the risk of their peers without the disease. Diabetes is a chronic disease without a cure.
Mark your calendar: Saturday April 25, 2015 will be the Sixth Annual Black Diabetes Expo, presented by the Canadian Diabetes Association and its Caribbean Chapter. The free, full day (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.) event will take place at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA), located at 995 Arrow Road in North York. A free shuttle bus from TAIBU Community Health Centre in Malvern will help ensure no one has to stay home and miss out.
Guests of the Expo will become aware of the New Diabetes Charter for Canada, what it means for you, for Canadians and an opportunity to support the charter, which advocates for equal rights and access to quality care for all Canadians living with diabetes.
Guests of the Expo will also be able to have their blood pressure checked and determine their personal level of risk of developing diabetes by completing the CDA CanRisk Questionnaire. A CanRisk score of 6 or less indicates your likelihood of developing diabetes within the next 10 years is 1 in 100, whereas a score of 20 or greater the risk is 1 in 2 or 50 per cent. What’s your score?
Each Expo has a theme or focus. This year’s spotlight is on high blood pressure and its connection to diabetes. The keynote address, “Taking control of your blood pressure will control your diabetes management,” is being delivered by Dr. George Dresser, clinical pharmacologist of Western University.
Blood pressure is the pressure or force of blood against the walls of blood vessels as it circulates. Blood pressure is most commonly measured in the brachial artery of the arm and it is expressed as two numbers. Systolic blood pressure (the top or higher number) is the pressure in the artery when the heart contracts and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom or lower number) is the pressure in the artery when the heart relaxes between beats. Normal blood pressure in an adult is considered 120/80 (mmHg).
Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout our day, increase with activity, decrease at rest, but a consistently elevated blood pressure measured at 140/90 (mmHg) is considered high blood pressure or hypertension. Consistently elevated blood pressure can put too much pressure on the walls of your arteries and blood vessels, leading to damage causing a number of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than 1 in 5 Canadians over the age of 20 has high blood pressure; 9 out of 10 between 55 and 65 has high blood pressure; 17 per cent of people with high blood pressure are unaware that they have it; it is the number one reason for prescription medication; and it is estimated that at least 30 per cent of high blood pressure is attributed to excess salt (sodium) in our diet. Given these statistics and with the prevalence of high blood pressure among people of African descent, it’s fair to say that if you are reading this article you not only know someone with diabetes you know someone with high blood pressure.
Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure have something in common. They both cause damage to our arteries and blood vessels. In fact if you have high blood pressure you are at increased risk of developing diabetes and if you have diabetes you are considered to have high blood pressure with a reading of only 130/80 (mmHg) not 140/90 (mmHg).
Leading up to this year’s Expo, I had a chance to talk with Kathy Nelson, President and Founder of the Caribbean Chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association. She further stressed the relationship between diabetes and high blood pressure.
“You can not only look at controlling high blood sugar levels, you must also monitor and control high blood pressure and high fat/cholesterol levels in the blood,” she said. “Remember, high blood pressure and high fat/cholesterol damages the small and large blood vessels throughout the body such as those in the eyes, kidneys, heart, and those that supply the brain, legs and feet.”
Kathy shared the following health statistics: if you can lower your blood pressure by 10 systolic and 5 diastolic, you can decrease your risk of developing heart disease by 50 per cent, stroke by 38 per cent, heart attack by 15 per cent and death by 10 per cent. For Kathy, these statistics are very important. As a Black woman with a family history of diabetes and living with high blood pressure, she knows she is at increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and suffering a heart attack or stroke. Kathy is eager to share strategies and tips she has learned from others and those she lives by to stay on top of her health.
All of the presenters and panellists at the Expo, such as Ann Petgrave, clinical pharmacist, William Osler Health Centre; Dr. Paul Galiwango, Scarborough cardiologist; Paulette Lewis, nurse practitioner, The Renal Program at Scarborough Hospital; Dr. Michael Surin from Toronto Rehab, Dr. Dresser and, of course, Kathy Nelson, will collectively explore and explain the relationship between diabetes and high blood pressure and discuss the major steps to managing both through sustained lifestyle modifications (diet and exercise) and proper adherence to helpful medications.
I have been involved in the Black Diabetes Expo since its inception in 2009. It is a successful event attracting several hundred people throughout the day each year. The Expo provides valuable diabetes information for our community.
Education has been and continues to be our best defence and tool in which to protect and preserve our health and well-being. Always strive to be better informed and proactive in using the information you have learned.
See you at the Black Diabetes Expo.
Event partners include G98.7 FM, Jamaican Canadian Association, Rogers TV, TAIBU Community Health Centre and Viv’s Catering.
For more information about the Black Diabetes Expo, call 416-226-8464 or visit diabetes.ca. For information about the Caribbean Chapter of CDA call Kathy at 416-987-0339. The next Caribbean Chapter Meeting will be Tuesday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Anglican Church of the Nativity in Malvern. The topic of discussion will be “The effect of uncontrolled diabetes on the heart”, with cardiologist Dr. Paul Galiwango.
Dr. Christopher J. Morgan is the director of Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness, an interdisciplinary health centre in Toronto, The Founder and the Past President of the Black Health Alliance, a network of community organizations, health professionals and community members working in partnership to advance the health and well-being of the Black community. He can be reached at 416-447-7600 or email@example.com.