Diabetes epidemic can be deterred

By Pat Watson Wednesday September 25 2013 in Opinion
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The name Slinger Francisco might not be familiar to many, but there is hardly a person of Caribbean origin who doesn’t know Francisco by his stage name, the Mighty Sparrow. Clever and engaging lyrics and unique nuances of double entendre earned Sparrow the title of the undisputed Calypso King of the World with eight Carnival Road March titles in Trinidad and Tobago and 11 Calypso Monarch titles. You only have to hear the screams from women in the audience during a Sparrow performance to know the genius of his talent.


It wouldn’t be possible to travel into the world of calypso music without taking in some of the Mighty Sparrow’s gems – “Ten to One is Murder”, “Dan is the Man”, “Drunk and Disorderly”, “Melda (Obeah Wedding)”, “Mae, Mae”, and on and on.


In recent weeks, Sparrow, 78, has been listening to his own music along with other favourites from his hospital bed in a New York hospital. A long time diabetic, he had fallen into a diabetic coma two weeks ago. A great deal of prayer went toward his recovery. The good news from his family is that he is now out of the coma and responsive.


We hear an awful lot about the deadly diseases that claim lives daily worldwide. Cancer is one of note, but among the African population diabetes has a tremendous hold.


If you are Black, chances are you are either living with type 2 diabetes or know someone who is. If it’s not you then it’s likely someone in your family, which means this condition is epidemic.


Health Canada data show that more than 9-million Canadians currently live with diabetes or are pre-diabetic and that number increases by 2-million annually. Important to grasp is that Black people are an identified high-risk group along with Aboriginals, Hispanics and Asians.


A recent poster shows a famous chef saying, “Homicide is 0.8 per cent of deaths. Diet-related diseases is over 60 per cent, but no one… talks about it.” What he refers to is the role that processed foods especially play in triggering type 2 diabetes. Cheap food is killing us. Poverty prevents many from being able to afford anything but the cheapest foods which, by the way, have the least nutrition. These foods actually starve the body and set us up for pre-diabetic conditions.


Also related to living in poverty is stress. Stress hormones released on an ongoing basis will create cardiovascular imbalance and the build-up of unfriendly agents in blood vessels. There is one other contributor, which is lack of physical activity. It is remarkable that simply taking a 30-minute walk each day can go a long way to preventing pre-diabetes.


Modern lifestyle and modern foods are the culprits in this epidemic and we must take it seriously. The diabetic condition also sets the stage for other health conditions. Closely related are hypertension and the risks of stroke and heart disease.


We have got to take this epidemic seriously. We all have to go at some point, but the choices an individual makes about lifestyle today can determine the conditions under which we meet our final day, and how soon.


A note on political friends playing the public…


So the federal Conservative government has given Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s subway vision a boost by offering up $660 million toward the construction of the Scarborough subway line, funding that follows Toronto City Council’s version of what that construction should look like. Interestingly, this deal comes days after Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray announced the province’s plans for Scarborough subway construction. Suddenly, everyone is on the build-it-in-Scarborough bandwagon. But one has to question the timing of the announcement from federal finance minister, Jim Flaherty. It’s the political optics that is a matter of note since the handshake between the city and the feds does not line up with the province’s plan.


This is a lot of showiness as the various political philosophies play for points against one other and for favoritism among the electorate. Frankly, it’s still all talk. Some of us won’t be convinced until a decade from now (two decades?) when we are finally sitting or standing on a train heading north from Scarborough Town Centre to Sheppard.



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