A diabetes test can be performed with a blood glucose meter. Picture: SUPPLIED
A diabetes test can be performed with a blood glucose meter. Picture: SUPPLIED

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated globally on November 14 to raise awareness about both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

The disease can affect anyone, at any time in their lives, and due to changing trends in our lifestyle and diets, this serious condition is on the increase.

Research shows truck drivers have a higher risk of contracting type 2 diabetes. A 2009 US study found that commercial truck drivers have a 50% higher risk of developing diabetes compared to the general population.

There are various reasons for this, including their tendency to rely on unhealthy meals on the road and decreased exercise as a result of many hours behind the wheel, says Eugene Herbert, MD of MasterDrive, an advanced driver training company.

For this reason, companies who have truck drivers exposed to similar unhealthy conditions, should implement regular screening into their policies.

“If a driver contracts diabetes and it goes undetected, this not only poses a serious health risk to the driver but to their safety on the road as well,” says Herbert.

REGULAR SCREENING CAN ENSURE YOUR DRIVERS ARE NOT AT RISK OF SERIOUS OR TRAGIC CRASHES ON THE ROAD

“Your vision can be affected when you have diabetes, particularly if it is uncontrolled. Fatigue is increased and nerve damage can even affect your control of the accelerator and brakes. Regular screening can not only prevent these undesirable, and sometimes even irreversible health problems, but ensure your drivers are not at risk of serious or tragic crashes on the road.”

While a driver cannot be forced to disclose personal health information, they can be provided access to resources that can help them manage diabetes or other health issues.

“Once these resources are available, instill a company policy that encourages drivers to undergo monthly health checks and to make healthy choices when on the road. Once awareness is raised within your organisation and drivers have the resources to look after their health, it is a massive step in the right direction,” says Herbert.

He offers these tips for ensuring truck drivers are at optimal health:

  • Create awareness of the symptoms drivers should be aware of.
  • Encourage drivers to choose healthy snacks or to prepack healthy meals. This not only reduces risk of contracting diabetes or better manages it, but it also contributes toward better health and energy levels in general.
  • Educate newly diagnosed drivers about what signs to look out for that could indicate they are experiencing low or high sugar levels.
  • If a driver experiences high or low sugar levels, insist that they take a break in a safe area until their levels return to normal.
  • Encourage regular monitoring of sugar levels throughout the journey.
  • Carry snacks in case their sugar levels drop when a convenience store is not nearby.
  • Ensure diabetic drivers have medic alerts so if involved in a crash, paramedics are aware of their health condition.
  • Ensure you check your drivers’ eyesight regularly.

Diabetes is a life-long condition where you have too much sugar in your blood, due to a lack of insulin. This high blood sugar level, if left untreated, can cause irreversible damage and ultimately lead to death.

Your body is made up of millions of cells, all of which require energy to function. The food you eat is broken down into a simple sugar called glucose, which is carried to the cells to supply energy. Insulin, a hormone made in your pancreas, enables the glucose to enter your cells. As the glucose enters your cells, your blood sugar level drops.

If you lack insulin (type 1 diabetes) or if your insulin is ineffective (type 2 diabetes) glucose is not able to enter your cells and accumulates in your blood.

This causes frequent urination, excessive thirst, hunger and tiredness. Other symptoms include blurred vision, dry skin or skin infections, nausea, recurring infections, wounds or cuts that will not heal, unexplained weight loss, and tingling or numbness in hands or feet.

Between 90% and 95% of diabetes suffer from type 2 diabetes, and unless this condition is diagnosed early enough, serious complications may be the result:

Heart disease — 75 % of diabetes patients die from cardiovascular complications.

Nerve damage — 50 % of all amputations performed are due to uncontrolled diabetes.

Kidney failure — occurs as a result of nerve damage.

Visual impairment — 50% of patients with uncontrolled diabetes suffer visual impairment.

There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be controlled with exercise, meal planning and medication.