How best to support the rising number of Bermudians living with diabetes? The Bermuda Diabetes Association (BDA), led by Chair of the Board Debbie Jones, has an answer: the new Hilton Hill Diabetes Centre located in Hamilton. The 2,000-square-foot space will house an enhanced pharmacy, rooms for the two pharmacists to offer educational programmes, and a fully functional teaching kitchen. For the first time, the comprehensive services offered by the BDA are under one roof.
“We need this,” says Debbie Jones. “Diabetes is prevalent and growing worldwide, and that includes here in Bermuda. Ninety-five percent of all diabetes cases are Type 2, which is lifestyle related. That means that both prevention and reversal are possible. Our new centre will focus on those two aspects, as well as help all people with diabetes—Type 1 and Type 2—access lifesaving medicines and be supported in why, how and when to take them.”
Education is a key component in diabetes care, which is why new programmes such as “Know Your Medicines,” nutrition classes, and even cooking demonstrations have been developed. One of the best ways to learn is to participate in hands-on sessions, which the new kitchen makes possible. Participants learn that preparing healthy meals is easy, tastes good and can be economical too. In some ways, the new centre offers a counterbalance to the fact that modern life is making us sick. We sit more and move less. We have easy access to sweet treats and supersized portions. We have strayed away from water as our beverage of choice and toward sugary drinks.
Recent studies have shown that at 13 percent of the population the incidence of diabetes is high in Bermuda compared to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries—in fact, it is more than twice the level of the OECD average. In addition, 24 percent of adult Bermudians are obese compared to 18 percent in those countries. In other words, the people of Bermuda need help when it comes to health and body weight. The Hilton Hill Diabetes Centre is just the place to provide critical support and education.
“There’s much we can do as individuals to prevent obesity and lower our chances of becoming diabetic,” says Jones. “Be physically active, fill our plates with vegetables, drink water. Think about the food your grandparents ate: whole, fresh and prepared at home. And be mindful of your sugar intake. The World Health Organization recommends no more than six teaspoons per day for adults. Most popular sugary drinks have more than that in a single serving.” Making these lifestyle changes helps to keep blood sugar low, which in turn keeps diabetes at bay. Untreated diabetes or long periods of high blood sugar can lead to kidney damage, eye damage, increased risk for heart disease and stroke, nerve damage, and even limb amputation.
“Sometimes people don’t understand that they are showing symptoms of high blood sugar,” says Jones. “Those symptoms include thirst, excessive urination and fatigue, all of which can be easy to explain away if the weather is hot or we haven’t been sleeping well. We encourage anyone who is obese or has other risk factors of chronic disease such as hypertension or heart disease to be screened annually.”
The ultimate goal of the Hilton Hill Diabetes Centre is to focus on prevention, with a long-term vision of a world without diabetes, where Type 1 is cured and those at risk of Type 2 follow a healthy lifestyle to prevent the onset of disease. At the same time, support for anyone needing medications is readily available to reduce complications, hospital admissions and health-care costs.
“Let’s try to get ahead of this pernicious disease,” says Jones.
The new Hilton Hill Diabetes Centre is on the corner of Dundonald Street and Princess Street. To learn more about the Bermuda Diabetes Association, visit www.diabetes.bm, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 297-8427