Diabetes stalks the islands

LIHU’E – There’s a hidden danger beneath the placid ocean-blue surface of Hawaii’s laid-back lifestyle that pulls down native Hawaiians and others.

That dietary riptide is diabetes.

According to statewide statistics presented as part of a thesis at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa by researcher Matthew J. Shim, 77 Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians out of every 1,000 suffered from diabetes in 1995.

According to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in Honolulu, 44 percent of the new cases reported in the state in the last decade affected folks of Hawaiian ancestry.

According to information provided by the Diabetes and Hormone Center of the Pacific, Honolulu, (headed by director David Fitz-Patrick), there are two types of diabetes. In Type 1, called childhood diabetes (which affects less than 10 percent of the total sufferers), patients must take daily insulin to live. Although this type may occur in adulthood, sufferers are usually first afflicted before their teen years.

Type II diabetes-adult-onset diabetes-occurs mostly in people over 40 years old.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. In Type II, the body may make insulin but not enough, or the body loses the capacity to use the insulin that is produced internally.

In addition to requiring daily shots or medications, diabetes often leads to other serious health concerns. As opposed to non-diabetics, diabetics are:

• Two to four times more likely to develop heart disease.

• Four times more likely to go blind.

• Five times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Twenty times more likely to suffer kidney failure.

And diabetics run a much greater risk of infections than their non-diabetic brothers and sisters.

Mary Roush, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator for Kaua`i Medical Clinic, said that nationwide, diabetes strikes about 5 percent of the population, although there are pockets with large African-American or Hispanic populations where the rate approaches 10 percent.

The rate of diabetes among Native Hawaiians “is about 10 percent. And statewide it’s about 10 percent,” Roush said. “There are a lot of Japanese whose natural body type is slim. But even if, living the high-fat (American) lifestyle, they put just a little bit of weight on,” diabetes often follows.

The group at biggest risk for diabetes are those 20 percent above normal body weight, she said.

Other important factors, according to Roush, are diet and physical fitness.

Of course, foods high in fat and days full of lounge chairs are not what she recommends.

“We know a whole lot more about diabetes now. We (emphasize) a real holistic approach-exercise, lifestyle, teach them about carbohydrate counting. Carbohydrates turn into glucose. They can eat as much (carbohydrates) as they want. They just can’t eat it all at once,” Roush said.

Diabetes does not need to restrict lives the way it once did, she observed.

“People can control Type II diabetes on their own. Lifestyle stuff. There’s lots they can do they are not even aware of,” Roush said.

More good news, according to the Diabetes and Hormone Center, is that diabetics who keep a close eye on their disease, with glucose level management, have fewer complications from their disease.

Tight control means testing blood sugar levels four to seven times a day, and more complicated insulin injection schedules that vary from patient to patient.

The rewards, according to a study involving 1,400 Type 1 diabetics, is 76 percent less eye disease, 60 percent less nerve damage and 35 to 55 percent less kidney disease.

The Diabetes and Hormone Center also suggests these ways for diabetics to fight the side-effects of their disease:

• Quit smoking.

• Control high blood pressure.

• Eat healthy foods.

• Get regular exercise.

• Floss and brush daily.

Regular checkups.

• Annual cholesterol checkups.

• Kidney function tests and annual eye exams.

Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and [dwilken@pulitzer.net] More on diabetes There are several sources for more information about diabetes, including the American Diabetes Association at 1-888-342-2383.

Mary Roush, a certified diabetes instructor at Kaua’i Medical Clinic, said Miles Lahr, pharmacist at Shoreview Pharmacy, dispenses knowledgeable advice to diabetics along with medications.

In addition, Ho`ola Lahui Hawai`i (246-3511) and the office (245-1500) where Roush works help patients deal with “the sweet killer.”


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