Diabetes risk factor number one

From last week’s blog, you are now aware that 5% of Africans aged 20-79 years of age, are diabetic. We ended last week with a guess estimate of about 20 million Africans with diabetes.


So how is it that so many on this continent suffer from diabetes? What increases your chances of suffering this disease?


Some things that predispose us to diabetes……..we can do nothing about. Those are things like our heritage and getting old. If you have close family members with diabetes, your likelihood of coming down with the disease is higher than that of those for whom the disease does not run in the family. As we age, our bodies become more insulin resistant and we are more likely to have diabetes.


If you were born of a malnourished mother, you have a higher risk of having diabetes as an adult. This is made worse if the malnutrition led to you not attaining what would have been your expected height – which is known as stunting. Studies have shown that adults who had stunted growth as children are sometimes 7 times more likely to get diabetes that those who grew to their expected height.


So you have no control over where your genes came from or how your mother ate when she was pregnant with you. Also, the alternative to growing old is dying young and we don’t want that. At least I don’t …. though if I died now, would that be considered a young death? Hmmm…. I digress…….


But there are things we have some control over that increase our risk of diabetes and those are the ones I shall focus more on.


Number one is high body fat


Obesity is reported to be the cause of about most of the type2 diabetes – and it’s the fat around the waist that is the worst. One interesting fact is that although women in Africa have a bigger obesity problem than men –  the rate of diabetes has been found to be same in both men and women as insulin sensitivity in women with higher percentage of fat is similar to that of leaner men. I am just guessing here – so don’t quote me – this may be because most African women have the largest fat deposits in their hips and bum – which is not as bad as the tummy fat.


But what exactly is a thick waist?


You measure your waist by taking the mid-point between the top of your hips and the bottom of your ribs. The tape measure should pass within an inch or so of your tummy button.




For men, your risk of diabetes is increased if your waist is 37 inches or more. For women, your risk is increased if your waist is 31.5 inches or more.


Now, if you passed me on the street, you would not think of me as having too big a waist, not really – perhaps in the early stages of pregnancy perhaps, perhaps ish? So children would not point at me and tug their mothers and say something like


‘Mum, look at that woman, she is fat!’

You know…….. the way only kids can do.

No, I have a pretty normal body size.

Yet, my waist is on the ‘unhealthy’ scale.


Don’t start on me yet, I am working on it……so before you proceed, let’s remove the log in your eye, how big is your waist?



Measure your waist

Measure your waist


Are you still feeling all ‘holy-than-thou’ still?


If Yes and you are over 40 years old – loud applause!


If not, let’s see what all that fat or yours and mine is doing to our bodies.


Now fat in your body (and mine!) does not sit like a bone in one place. This thing is mobile and the more you have, the more it sort of ‘spills’ where it should not. If you have ever slaughtered a chicken (vegetarians …. I am really sorry) you know that a fat bird will have that oily look in all its inside organs – the liver, heart, intestines, kidneys will all have a layer of yellow fat and that shiny look.


To be brutally honest, that’s how those of us with a large waistline look inside. That fat oiling your internal organs leads to inflammation that brings about insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when your body becomes less sensitive to insulin, which means there are higher levels of sugars in the blood = diabetes.


I don’t know about you- but I think I will take a long walk and make sure my gym sessions are in place in the new year ………


More on diabetes next week