If You’re Diabetic, Indulge in the Season…Moderately


    Christmas is normally a time for laughter, family gatherings and, of course, meals.

    Unfortunately, often many of these meals are high in calories and sugars. It’s why doctors are urging Jamaicans to enjoy the season in moderation especially if they are diabetic.

    Dr Alfred Dawes, Weight Loss and Laproscopic surgeon and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, revealed that Jamaicans, especially those who are diabetic, need to consume meals in moderation, especially over the holiday period, because of the consequential increase it will have on blood sugar levels.

    “What we have realised over the years is that after the Christmas holidays, we see an increase in the number of diabetic patients being admitted to hospitals, because of the spike in insulin levels. When we do our investigations, we find out that they sometimes had too much sweet treats,” Dr Dawes noted.

    He said in the case of older persons, some may suffer from swelling in the legs and other symptoms that indicate more serious illnesses.

    “Sometimes after the holidays, the older persons may have a bump on the arm or leg and the family becomes concerned. When they visit the hospital we find that because of the increased sugar or salt over the holidays, they are having heart failure,” he stated.

    “In fact, there are two notable periods in the year when there is an increase in the number of persons visiting the hospital with high insulin levels and that is Christmas and mango season; which is why we encourage patients to enjoy the season but in moderation,” he added.

    Dr Dwayne Hall, general surgeon at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, St James said he has observed many persons also pay less attention to their health during this period of the year, which can also lead them to eat more than normal.

    “During Christmas there are a lot of activities, and the period tends to be busy so persons sometimes neglect their health as opposed to other periods of the year,” he said.

    “Persons may also neglect their medication, and a combination of dietary problems and not taking medication will often result in the patient having issues with their health,” he added.

    He said diabetics and pre-diabetics need to pay close attention to their health during the holidays, as they would during the rest of the year.

    “Patients need to monitor their blood sugar daily, take their medication, obtain a GMR machine and exercise as they would during the year,” he advised.

    Hugh Reid, General Manager, JN Life Insurance, added that a healthy lifestyle should be practised year-round regardless of the occasion; and as a pre-diabetic himself, he monitors his diet and exercises as often as he can.

    “For us as Jamaicans, Christmas is a time for family, laughter and a good meal, especially when it comes to our favourite foods. However, in all the fun and laughter, it is essential that we remain vigilant when it comes to our health especially if we have non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes or even pre-diabetes,” he stated.

    Mr Reid noted that studies conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness indicate that medical costs from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes alone, over the next 15 years, could be as high as $29.8 billion. He pointed out that the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can wipe out life savings.

    “It is even more telling when you realize that one in three Jamaicans is hypertensive; one in eight is diabetic; and one-third of the population will be diagnosed with a chronic illness,” he affirmed.

    “We encourage persons to consistently monitor their health and to take the necessary steps to minimise the cost associated with treatment by investing in critical illness insurance plans to assist with mitigating the huge costs associated with treating chronic diseases. Most importantly, we encourage them to do all things in moderation because prevention is always better than cure,” he added.

    Dr Dawes also offered some advice to persons who are diabetic or who are monitoring their weight.

    “If you are a meat eater and want as much meat as possible, compensate by taking on less carbohydrates. Rice, mashed potatoes, potato salad, pasta and bread are all simple carbohydrates that can contribute a significant number of calories to your meal. Instead of filling your plates with carbohydrates, go for the ‘meat and veg’ option. You will eat less calories and feel full for longer,” he advised.

    “Egg nog and sorrel can add hundreds of calories to a meal without you even realising it. You can still enjoy these staples, but fill your glass with ice or simply drink less. Christmas cake can add anywhere from 320 to a whopping 700 calories per slice, depending on the recipe. My simple advice: when confronted with a delicious slice of cake begging you for seconds, resist the temptation. You will feel better in January,” he added.

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