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As awareness around diabetes increases, prevention of the disease is still not seen as much as a priority as its treatment. Known as ‘the silent killer’, with the potential to cause damage to various organs of the body, people remain negligent, remarks Praveshh Gaur, founder, Srauta Wellness. “People do not realise the need for diabetes prevention until they suffer from it. This negligence has created a major health problem and has also led to possible deaths in the country,” he explains.
Taking stock of the need for awareness and stressing on prevention, International Diabetes Federation’s theme for World Diabetes Day 2019 is ‘Family and Diabetes’. Its website states, “Families are urged to learn more about the warning signs of diabetes and find out their risk of type 2 diabetes. Research conducted by IDF in 2018 discovered that parents would struggle to spot this serious life-long condition in their own children. Despite the majority of people surveyed having a family member with diabetes, an alarming number of four-in-five parents would have trouble recognising the warning signs. One-in-three wouldn’t spot them at all.”
As per IDF, the lack of knowledge about diabetes means that spotting the warning signs is not just a problem for parents, but is an issue impacting a cross-section of society. “This is a major concern, due to the signs being milder in Type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of the condition, responsible for around 90 per cent of all diabetes. One in two people currently living with diabetes are undiagnosed. The vast majority of these have Type 2 diabetes.”
Concurring, Dr Pramod Tripathi, founder, Freedom from Diabetes mentioned, “The way to slow down the epidemic lies in educating, inspiring and supporting diabetics and their family members. They need to be given deeper scientific understanding, simple yet do-able options for diet and exercise which give results and be supported to make those changes such that they can transform their life-style and their health.”
India is touted as the diabetes capital of the world. According to Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey India Report, a US-based global health service provider, the diabetic population in the country is close to hitting the alarming mark of 69.9 million by 2025 and 80 million by 2030. According to WHO, 72.96 million cases have been estimated in the adult population of India. Due to the sheer numbers, this has emerged as a global burden.
As a chronic disease, diabetes is caused when either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells in the body do not respond properly to the insulin. Left untreated or unmanaged, diabetes can lead to complications such as blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.
There are other concerns as well. Diabetes causes oxidative stress which damages the DNA of the sperm. Fragmented or damaged DNA further causes natural death of the cells, which affects men’s fertility, mentioned Dr Shobha Gupta, medical director and IVF expert from Mother’s Lap IVF Centre.
On the other hand, gestational diabetes can cause health problems during pregnancy for both the child and mother. Dr Shweta Goswami, senior consultant gynaecologist and IVF specialist, Jaypee and Cloudnine Hospital, Noida pointed out, “Children whose mothers had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Although gestational diabetes often goes away after pregnancy, about half of all women who have gestational diabetes get type 2 diabetes later in life.”
“If you are pregnant with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, one might have the higher chances of abortion or miscarriage while babies of mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to be stillborn or may remain malnourished,” added Dr Goswami.
What can be done?
In order to prevent diabetes, it is important to check for any anomaly early on, stressed Dr Ashutosh Goyal, endocrinologist, Paras Hospital, Gurugram. “It is estimated that almost 50 per cent of diabetics remain undiagnosed in India, putting them at huge risk of diabetic complications. It is more important to get your sugar levels checked regularly after 40 years of age, particularly if you carry a hereditary risk of diabetes.”
Look for these warning signs and seek advice if you are aged above 30 years and are:
* Overweight or obese with BMI 23-24.9kg/m2
* Having family history – one or both the parents having diabetes
* Women diagnosed with PCOS
* Darkening of skin on the back of your neck
* Developing any dry or red spots on your skin
* Hypertension/feeling fatigue
Healthcare experts pointed out that the growing epidemic can be tackled provided lifestyle changes are incorporated early on.
“Every person should maintain lifestyle in such a way that one needs to eat less, eat good, eat on time and eat slowly, besides getting seven hours of sleep also and most importantly don’t give stress, don’t take stress,” recommended Dr Anubha Singh from Shantah IVF Centre, New Delhi.
Dr Goyal pointed out that one could look at the “positive side of the story considering that a bulk of the recent disease surge has been driven by lifestyle factors and is therefore controllable”.
Consider these tips to live a healthy lifestyle:
1 Eat healthier, and watch portion sizes.
2 Cut out high-carb foods and sweets.
3 Being active – exercise daily or include a sport in your routine. This will help in losing weight if you are overweight. Strength training, swimming or skipping rope are good exercises for those who are pre-diabetic or have a family history of diabetes. “It is essential for all people with normal weight to get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise daily,” advised Dr Goyal.
4 Avoid smoking and control your alcohol intake too. Smokers are about 50 per cent more likely to develop the condition, as per various studies.
5 Design a diet that suits your lifestyle, culture, beliefs, and preferences. Ritika Samaddar, regional head-Dietetics, Max Healthcare, Delhi said, “Maintaining a daily log or diary is a great way to avoid misses, and also to map the impact.”
6 Include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pulses in your diet. A simple and gradual way is to revise your snacking routine and instead of pakodas, opt for a handful of almonds.
7 Avoid low-fat dairy products and oily fish.
8 Limit the amount of saturated food to avoid fats and trans fatty acids.
9 Cook at home instead of dining out or buying takeaway.
10 Limit the intake of sodium.
Satkam Divya, CEO, KlinicApp stressed that “one should always check the nutrition labels closely. Sugar-free food often contains plenty of calories and fats, and even carbohydrates. Remember that “natural” does not necessarily mean safe.” he noted.
One can still enjoy some foods containing sugar as long as they form part of an overall healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle, remarked Gaur. Small measures can go a long way to help: walk to work, take stairs instead of elevators, replace burgers and pizzas with fruits, recommended Goyal.
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