'Diet, exercise fights diabetes'

HEALTHY LIVING: Ian Palmer believes regular exercise and a change in diet has helped him cope with type-2 diabetes.
HEALTHY LIVING: Ian Palmer believes regular exercise and a change in diet has helped him cope with type-2 diabetes.

South Canterbury man Ian Palmer is living proof that a diabetes diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence.

The 73-year-old was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes in 2000 and now, 12 years on, has very little, if any, signs of the condition.

This week is Diabetes Awareness Week. Latest figures show there are 208,000 people who have diabetes in New Zealand and every day 50 more people are diagnosed.

Diabetes develops when a person has too much glucose in their blood. This happens because the pancreas cannot make enough insulin.

The condition runs in Mr Palmer's family. It contributed to the death of his mother and sister, who both had type-1 diabetes. His sister's condition was so severe that she had to have one of her legs amputated. The condition also caused her to die "an awful death" of renal failure, he said. His mother's condition caused her to go blind. She also had heart problems and suffered a stroke.

His family's experience with diabetes meant he was well aware of the damage it could do and gave him the motivation to fight the condition when he was diagnosed.

"I was very switched on from day two - on day one I felt sorry for myself."

Mr Palmer said his wife, Margaret, has been very supportive, preparing healthy meals.

"I was [also] very switched on. I lost 20 kilos in 20 weeks just by walking and doing more exercises, which I still do today."

Mr Palmer has never been on medication for diabetes. Instead, he believes his change in attitude, diet and exercise has been enough to overcome many of the symptoms other diabetics suffer from.

There are 3000 diabetics in South Canterbury. Less than 10 per cent of them have made contact with Diabetes NZ South Canterbury.

Committee member Bruce McCully said diabetes is a condition that can hide.

"You can't see it coming and how bad it is until it gets really bad and you start getting your legs cut off and start going blind."

Office administrator Louise Terry, who moved to the district eight months ago, said she was impressed by the services available in the community for diabetics.

She said it was her job to let people know those services were there and encourages anyone affected by diabetes to make contact with the organisation.

The Timaru Herald