Our feature on type 2 diabetes is an update on what has become a major health issue world over and more so in India. Blood sugar tests have become as commonplace as headache pills, ‘diet’ and sugar-free have taken the place of ‘new and improved’ on packs of food items. Despite high media coverage and awareness, the number of diabetics around the world is increasing rapidly. With all our technology and knowledge, we must be doing something wrong if we are not able to control this disease.
Over 10% of all city dwellers suffer from diabetes. India is home to over 60 million diabetics, the largest in the world. Apart from genetics, diet is a major cause. Carbohydrate-packed diet typical to India is fertile ground for developing diabetes.
We have all heard about heredity and insulin resistance. What we now understand is the role of metabolic syndrome in diabetes. Metabolic Syndrome is an ominous sounding name given to a group of risk factors for diabetes and circulatory disorders. These include (surprise) diet, lifestyle and stress.
Who should be concerned:
Overweight children and adults should be concerned about type 2 diabetes, all adults above the age of 45 years especially. A typical pear or apple shaped physique, i.e. high central obesity spells high risk for diabetes and cardiovascular problems
You know the tell tale signs, increased urination, night time urination, fatigue, increased thirst etc. But with obesity playing a big role, one should be alerted years before elevated glucose is actually detected. This by no means implies that thin people cannot get type 2 diabetes. Learning about diagnosis is therefore important.
Diagnosis usually happens when coming across these symptoms, a doctor asks for blood sugar to be tested. But one should not wait that long. A full body check-up or at least a CBC (complete blood check) once a year is a good idea. Even if the tests are clear, watching your weight and watching what you eat is imperative.
Monitoring and Medicine:
Monitoring blood glucose is now easy with home glucose meters. But the difficult part is diet and exercise which entirely depend on your effort and will. The exact combination of medicines is decided by your doctor based on your blood sugar levels and co-morbidities.
Sugar is all around you and it does not always appear in the form of a bottle on your dining table. The easiest way to start is to cut off added sugar, as explained in here on sugar and salt consumption.
A lot of plant based and alternate forms of treatments will hit the shelves as the diabetes market explodes. Whatever medicine/supplement you choose to take, be sure to run it past your doctor first. Some treatments have shown promise, one as simple as taking two spoonfuls of Fenugreek (methi soaked overnight) a day.
Living with diabetes:
It is by no means easy. It can be pretty depressing to find out that more and more things on the menu are off limits. But giving up on diet control and sugar monitoring is the worst thing you can do. In the past one year, many food products marketed under the health/diet/low calorie/low sugar banner have been forced off the shelves due to lack luster response. It clearly indicates we have not woken up to the gravity of the situation.
Co-morbidities of diabetes:
High blood sugar in itself can be controlled effectively over a life time. What causes is damage is the effect of long existing high blood sugar and insulin resistance on other organs. Impairment of kidney function (diabetic nephropathy), loss of vision (diabetic retinopathy) and diabetic foot infections are very common and very debilitating. Patients who completely ignore their condition and go around with a blood sugar of 400 plus are at highest risk.
So, in terms of type 2 diabetes, all you really need to know is that motivators are plenty to keep you in the fight. To stop monitoring glucose levels and eat like there is no tomorrow is as good as throwing in the towel.
– Punit Pania