“At the beginning of a new year, many of us think about improving our health through taking up a fitness regimen or eating more healthily. A crucial but often overlooked aspect of taking care of our wellbeing is having routine health screenings,” said Joy Steenkamp, a pharmacist at Medipost Pharmacy.
DIABETES – CHRONIC HIGH BLOOD SUGAR
Diabetes is a chronic long-term condition that affects how the body breaks down sugar from the food that patients eat. While type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood, type 2 diabetes develops over time and is more often diagnosed in adulthood.
“Insulin is a hormone that helps control your body’s blood sugar levels. If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much sugar remains in your bloodstream and this can lead to serious health problems over time, including potentially irreversible damage to the eyes, kidneys, and other organ systems. It is therefore critical to be aware of your blood sugar levels and get tested regularly to know if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” Steenkamp said.
“With the medicines available these days, along with regular exercise, and a healthy diet as advised by your treating doctor, diabetes can be very well controlled with many new oral or injectable medicines to help keep blood sugar levels stable.
HYPERLIPIDAEMIA – HIGH CHOLESTEROL
“High cholesterol, or elevated levels of fat in the bloodstream, is another common non-communicable disease that is all too common in SA. Although people with high cholesterol usually do not have any symptoms, if it remains undiagnosed and therefore untreated it significantly increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke,” Steenkamp added.
“A simple blood test reveals cholesterol levels, and if these are outside of the healthy range your treating doctor will prescribe the right kind of chronic medicine to help maintain cholesterol at healthier levels. A diet that is low in saturated fat and regular cardio exercise are generally recommended as part of the treatment plan.”
HYPERTENSION – HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
“The World Health Organization estimates that almost half of people living with high blood pressure globally remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, and only one in five have their hypertension under control,” Steenkamp said.
When hypertension is not well controlled it places additional pressure on the cardiovascular system, potentially leading to heart attack, heart failure and stroke, as well as kidney damage among other risks.
“Unmanaged, these conditions are associated with significantly higher risk of hospitalisation and premature death, but these outcomes can be avoided with the right treatment. Once a person has been tested, they have the power to improve their long-term health and can often avoid complications with the necessary treatment and lifestyle adjustments.
Steenkamp stressed how important it is for patients to understand that when their doctor has prescribed the right medication specifically for them, this is only the first step to effective treatment, and it is of critical importance that they continue to take their medicine exactly as prescribed – even when they feel better. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition and starting new medication can be daunting. This is where pharmacists have such a critical role to play in ensuring that repeat medication is not only dispensed but successfully collected or delivered every month.