The 1st of November marks the start of Diabetes Awareness Month, in acknowledgement of the disease which remains within the top 5 causes of crew failing the Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME), UK P&I Club informed.
As the club reminds, diabetes is a progressive, non-communicable disease, more likely in over 40 year olds, for those with a family history of the condition, and those who are overweight. It can be caused primarily by a sedentary lifestyle, an increasing consumption of sugars and starches in our diets, which lead to obesity and an increasing difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels.
Non-insulin dependent diabetes can be controlled by diet, weight reduction and/or medication. Crew with controlled diabetes may be deemed fit for sea service with medication. However, if there is any doubt about the management of the condition or any complications arising from the diabetes the crew may be made temporarily unfit until such a time when the condition is under control.
“Like many illnesses early detection, correct diagnosis and management of Diabetes is essential in ensuring the long healthy life of the sufferer. Education about the risk factors is recommended and often the pre-employment medical examination will be the first opportunity for detecting of newly diagnosed insulin dependent crew,” UK Club advised.
The PEME examination is the perfect time to screen for the risk factors for diabetes as well as the presence of early signs of diabetes, the club says. This allows for early recognition of seafarers at risk, and then careful monitoring and treatment.
Treatment involves seafarers taking the following steps:
- Minimising the intake of sugar in sweetened foods (typically all packaged and processed foods, fruit juices, fizzy drinks and sauces).
- Minimising the intake of starches – the main culprits being bread, potatoes, pasta and rice.
- Exercising at least three times a week for 30 minutes, aiming to achieve an exercise heart rate of 75% of maximum.
- Monitoring blood sugar levels with tests such as urine glucose tests, blood sugar tests and a diabetes control measuring test, an HBA1C, which provides a measure of diabetes control over the last six weeks. The seafarer must also keep a log-book of their diabetes control to enable them to understand their health condition, and to take responsibility for its management.
- Using the medication prescribed by their doctor regularly and notifying their doctor of any change in their diabetes control, so that appropriate adjustments to their treatment regime can be made.