Diabetes Mellitus has become so common in our country that India is known as the Diabetes Capital of the world. As per International Diabetes Federation, in the year 2017 India had at least 7.2 crore diabetic people and a similar number have Prediabetes (blood sugar levels have not yet reached diabetic range but have a high risk of diabetes-related complications). The numbers are increasing at a scary pace and every projection on this in the last decade has been an underestimation. What complicates things is the fact that a large number of these may not have symptoms, thus may be undiagnosed and may not seek timely treatment.
Many of the deadly complications of Diabetes like Heart Attack, Stroke, Kidney Failure, Lower limb amputation, blindness can be prevented by timely intervention. Thus, awareness and proactive action are necessary. So, what are the risk factors for the development of Diabetes and what can be done to tackle this menace?
Ethnic/ Genetic Factors – People of the Indian subcontinent are at higher risk of developing Diabetes as the higher susceptibility genes are more common compared to western counterparts. When the westernized lifestyle including lots of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor fast food which is cheaper and easily available is added to it- the problem complicates further. Lack of physical activity just adds fuel to the fire. We are much more likely to find a child playing a video game on a mobile phone rather than a playground. Unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles breed Obesity which is one of the biggest risk factors of Diabetes, so much so that for every kilogram rise in bodyweight above the ideal weight, the risk of diabetes increases by 4.5%.
Chandigarh, unfortunately, has been reported to have one of the highest prevalence of diabetes and obesity in both urban and rural areas, according to recent the study was done by the Indian Council of Medical Research. The risk of developing diabetes also increases with age and if there are other medical problems like high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol ( Typically low levels of HDL Cholesterol which is also known as good cholesterol) or increased triglyceride levels. Type 2 diabetes is higher in those who have a family member (Siblings, parents) with Diabetes. Those females who had Gestational Diabetes (Diabetes developed during pregnancy) or have a polycystic ovarian disease have a much higher risk of developing the same subsequently.
Many people who have these risk factors can prevent Type 2 Diabetes or at least delay it substantially. Sticking to the basics of healthy eating and a regular physical activity regimen of least 150 minutes per week of brisk walking or similar activity can go a long way in doing that. Diet should include more complex carbohydrates and should be rich in fiber like green leafy vegetables, whole grains instead of simple ones like refined sugar or refined flour. If the person is overweight, then weight loss can be the single most important strategy- losing up to 7% of body weight reduces the chances of developing diabetes dramatically.
Are there some medicines that can help do that? Yes, there are some safe well tested and proven drugs available that can be used for a short duration and can help prevent a person with prediabetes to developing diabetes. Yes, you read it right there are options available to prevent Diabetes as well. Is it worth the effort? Yes of course as diabetes prevention should be seen as preventing potential heart attacks, stroke, blindness or kidney failure.
Thus, Diabetes prevention can mean increasing both the quality and quantity of life. Let’s all work together and spread awareness and Halt Diabetes.