I still remember Melvin (name changed for privacy) walking into my consulting room last January. He is a 32 years old software engineer working in Bangalore. The purpose of his visit was that he has been losing a lot of weight, from 82 to 74 kgs in 2 months.He was also feeling very tired and exhausted all through the day, also finding it difficult to focus. Blood tests done revealed a blood sugar of 488mg/dl, and it was a sad situation for me as a doctor to look at his face and tell him that he had diabetes. He was started on treatment the same day. We doctors are surprisingly seeing an increasing number of young patients like Melvin over the last few years. Some of them even in their twenties. This is why I thought it is important to share with you the importance of recognizing the fact that diabetes is occurring at younger ages and that it is preventable.
We need to take the threat of diabetes seriously
India is the country with the largest number of diabetics in the world. 18- 20% of Indians are diabetics and sadly one out of two people with diabetes do not know that they have diabetes.
We Indians are genetically at increased risk in developing this disease. Obesity is the most important reason for increase in cases of diabetes. Obesity is increasing like wild fire among children and adolescents as they choose western fast food over traditional food. We have also become sedentary with very little physical activity. India’s economic boom also has also added to the burden of this disease.
Why do we need to take diabetes seriously ?
Diabetes is the most important casuse for increase in number of patients with kidney failure, most important cause for loss of eye sight, these patients are also at high risk in developing heart disease, stroke and number of other complications related to the disease. The good news is that diabetes is preventable to a great extend.
Who are at high risk ?
Now the big Question, How can we prevent diabetes?
As I mentioned earlier, diabetes is a preventable disease to a great extend, and lifestyle modification is the most important step in prevention of diabetes All persons with fasting blood sugar more than 100mg/dl, should lose weight and increase physical activity, and this should be done in a regular way to have long term success.
Weight loss of 5% body weight, exercise for at least 4 hours every week
For example if a persons with risk of diabetes in weighing 60kgs he can reduce his risk by coming down to 57kgs by reducing 3kgs over 3 to 6 months
A balanced diet- less in carbohydrates and refined sugars and also less in fat is the most important step in losing weight. Always try to reduce portion size. Do not skip any meal as a part of dieting to reduce weight because it will teach the body to conserve fat. Eat more vegetables and fruits, drink more water. Drinking soft drinks and othe sweetened drinks like fruit juices, sports drinks and energy drinks should be discouraged. It is very important for mothers to know about a good diet to help prevent obesity and diabetes in their children.
Every person needs to develop a habit of exercising regularly. We must make sure that children are encouraged to take part in some games regularly. Make sure they are physically active. Sports and games also help you to be physically
fit, also adds to mental well being, reduces depression and helps to prevent diabetes.
Medicines like Metformin also can be used to prevent diabetes after lifestyle modifications, The importance of factors such as diet, bodyweight and exercise can be understood from the fact that in certain societies that have undergone fast changes towards a westernised lifestyle. In these societies there is a significant increase in diabetes which can be correlated with both weight gain and decreased physical activity. It is in fact a matter of great urgency to wake up to these facts. This threat is very real and preventable. We need to educate ourselves about diabetes and take responsibility of our own health and the health of our future generations