Monsignor Reginald Lafleur
Monsignor Reginald Lafleur

No one wants to get diabetes. It changes lives dramatically and permanently—and it can kill. Yet more and more persons in Dominica are getting diabetes.

It plays a major part in the "tsunami of chronic diseases" looming over the island, which Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa Etienne warned the nation about with the utmost clarity and seriousness.

"For every five persons in Dominica, one has diabetes," Dr Etienne said. One in five: that's a stunning statistic. It means most families on island have at least one diabetic. And they might not even be aware of it—a lack of knowledge that can be deadly.

And if you're diagnosed with diabetes, what can you do to live a reasonably long and satisfying life? One important step you can take is to join the Dominica Diabetic Association and find out what others like you are doing to make the best of a challenging situation.

If you join the association, you will meet fellow battlers of the disease who will readily share useful tips and tricks that could make your life a lot easier. You might even be lucky enough to have a word or two with a member by the name of Reginald Lafleur, who happens to know quite a lot about living with diabetes.

Lafleur can tell you how to manage diabetes with absolute precision. There is only one way for diabetics to avoid complications and discomfort, he says. They must ensure that their blood sugar is under control; that is, as close to normal as possible.

He advises a strict routine. Every day, every month, every year for the rest of their lives diabetics must check their blood pressure and maintain it within a healthy range-- 90 and 130 mg/dl before meals and less than 180 mg/dl one to two hours after meals.

The key, he says, is exercise. Lafleur works out for at least 30 minutes almost every day. Sometimes he exercises by taking a brisk walk; other times he swims or does aquatic aerobic exercises. He also climbs plenty staircases because every bit of exercise helps.

But Lafleur asserts that exercise alone is not enough; it must be done in conjunction with an appropriate diet. Indeed, he has developed an effective eating plan to meet his personal food preferences while keeping his blood glucose in a healthy range.

First, he carefully researched foods that help control diabetes then he chose what works for him-- ample portions of non-starchy vegetables with lots of vitamins and minerals, such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans.

It may be tough for some diabetics, but Lafleur recommends eliminating all manufactured sugars from their diet. That's why he doesn't drink any sugar-sweetened beverages at all. No soda, fruit punch or sweet tea for him-- he drinks water instead.

He also warns that food-portion control is an essential aspect of managing diabetes. "The amount of food you eat is important in getting to and staying at a healthy weight. Even eating too much healthy food can lead to weight gain," he explains.

Management of diabetes requires one more thing, Lafleur says-- knowing exactly what your prescribed medications are, why you are taking them and how they should be taken, which translates into taking the right doses of the right medicines at the right times.

Lafleur has a bonus tip. Diabetics must take certain tests regularly to ensure that their blood sugar is being regulated properly well and their bodies are coping -- the A1C blood test; cholesterol test; eye-exam; foot- exam; urine test and dental test.

So there you have it. If you have diabetes and you have the good sense and discipline to do what it takes to monitor and control the disease, you can live a wholesome, enjoyable life. Ask Reginald Lafleur-- he knows!