Living with Diabetes in India

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 Diabetes – a condition that billions have heard of, millions suffer from but only thousands have understood about! It is a growing epidemic in our country, ignorance of which can lead to multiple health complications sometimes even fatal! It is therefore important for us to have an understanding about what Diabetes is.

How does the body of a non-Diabetic person function?
The food that we eat is broken down into glucose or simple sugar. The organ Pancreas in our body produces a hormone called Insulin that helps this glucose/sugar enter our body cells which serving as a source of energy to our bodies.

What happens in case of a Diabetic person?
In case of a Diabetic person, either the Pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced is resisted by the body to convert the glucose/sugar into energy. Therefore, the level of glucose/sugar rises in the body. This is why many people term Diabetes as ‘Sugar’.

Diabetes in India:
Diabetes has become one of the major health problems in India. With 63 million Diabetic patients, India is second only to China of having the largest number of people living with Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) are seen more in number than before. This rise in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in India can be due to:

  • Genetic Risk: Indians are more prone to getting Diabetes than people of other countries. It is also observed that, Indians develop diabetes at least 10 – 15 years earlier than the Westerners.
  • Urbanisation: Rapid urbanisation associated with fast-food/junk-food culture, sedentary lifestyle, obesity etc. are giving way to Type 2 diabetes.
  • Stress: Another factor leading to Type 2 diabetes is the growing pressures at work and life taken by people leading to both physical & mental stress.

Awareness about Diabetes:
When it comes to Diabetes, ignorance is definitely not bliss! For the same reason, the number of people going for preventive care and regular check-up against Diabetes is hardly any. According to a survey conducted by HEAL foundation in Blue Fortnight 2012, there is a conscious effort required to convert this awareness about diabetes into action, especially among those who have a family history of Diabetes. The survey was conducted in three major cities in India among those who had at least one immediate member in the family with diabetes. The observations of this study were:

  • Only 33% knew that obesity and heredity could cause diabetes
  • Fewer than half understood that it was caused due to lower insulin levels
  • 63% didn’t know that diabetes could cause potential long term health problems
  • 85% revealed that they never went for a diabetes screening

If the awareness level of people living in urban areas was this low then what can we expect from the rural population?

Symptoms:
The common symptoms of having diabetes are frequent urination, excess hunger and thirst, weight loss, non healing wounds, blurred vision. Since these symptoms occur late when the blood sugar level is rather too high, the best way is to screen ourselves for diabetes at least once a year. Else chances are high that the diagnosis can occur only when the patient seeks treatment for a more complicated problem. For those with a family history of diabetes, obese people and those with a sedentary lifestyle, it is advisable to go for regular screening especially after 30 years of age.

Prevention of Diabetes:
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes that can be prevented with the help of lifestyle changes. Increase in obesity among children and teenagers are making them prone to Type 2 diabetes. Although the genetic factor can influence the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, healthy lifestyle habits can definitely lead to its prevention. Some healthy tips to prevent Type 2 diabetes:

  • Weight Control:  the evolution of technology has made it possible to get things done through minimal physical activities. Also most people are into desk-jobs that seldom require you to move around. Being overweight increases the chances of your body developing Type  2 diabetes.
  • Change in Diet: The junk food/fast food culture has come to India a big way, due to the rapid urbanisation! However, it is observed that most of these foods though delicious are often the unhealthiest leading to various health complications like obesity, diabetes, cholesterol etc. Studies have proved that foods rich in fibre like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds etc. lowers the risks of diabetes.
  • Physical Exercise: Most important and yet the difficult step is regular physical exercise.

Consult an  Expert:
There are various myths surrounding Diabetes, a common one being –excess intake of sugar and sweets can cause diabetes. With the advent of internet, there is no dearth of information on health matters, although many could be misguiding. Hence, when it comes to health related problems it becomes essential to consult a doctor.

Indians often spend a lot on healthcare. One reason for this could be the lack of awareness people have about preventive care. Before the symptoms get into complications and hassle your normal life, it is always ideal to get into the routine of regular health check-ups and lead a happier life.

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