Diabetes is one health conditions Indians should be seriously worried about. With 50.8 million people suffering from diabetes, India continues to be the ‘diabetes capital’ of the world. The statistics are just not on our side. According to the International Diabetes Federation, nearly 9% of the India’s population is likely to be affected from diabetes by 2030.
All the cells in your body need sugar to work normally. Sugar gets into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. “If there is not enough insulin, or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. That is what happens to people with diabetes,” explains Dr Sandeep Sharma, general physician and diabetologist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai.
Today, more and younger people are at risk of developing diabetes. One of the biggest culprits is frequent consumption of processed food. Mahesh Jayaraman, co-founder, sepalika.com (a healthcare platform), says, “These days, it is an incredibly common trend to hang out at cafes where it is hard to find even a single item on the menu that is healthy.” Couple that with a sedentary lifestyle, high stress levels and irregular sleeping patterns, and you are likely be on the fast track to diabetes.
Even though type 2 diabetes might not make you feel sick, it can cause serious problems over time, if it is not treated. “The disorder can lead to a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems (or even blindness), pain or loss of feeling in the hands and feet, the need to have fingers, toes, or other body parts removed (amputated),” says Dr Sharma.
Early screening is the key to detect the disease. Dr Vimal Pahuja, consulting diabetologist and metabolic physician, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai, says, “In 95% of the cases, the patients show no symptoms. It is only in the remaining 5% that we see symptoms.”
Be alert and look out for the symptoms of diabetes:
Darkening of certain parts of the body
Certain areas such as behind the neck, armpits and the groin are insulin sensitive areas. When the body develops insulin resistance, these areas become dark. “The scientific term for this is ‘acanthosis nigricans’. When levels of hbA1c (which is a measure of blood sugar levels) are above 6, the American Diabetes Association considers it full blown diabetes,” says Jayaraman.
When one feels tired for no reason, it is a sign that although the blood is full of sugar, the cells are unable to access that sugar. Because of this, one feels excessively tired. “If this happens for 2-3 weeks, it could be time to see a doctor,” says Jayaraman.
Feeling excessively thirsty/frequent urination
This is a sign that the body is trying to remove sugar from the system. Unusual, frequent peeing, about 10-12 times a day, is a sign that something is off. However this could sometimes also be attributed to external factors such as the season. For instance, one is prone to drinking more water and peeing a bit more frequently during the summer. This does not mean he/she has diabetes. “You are the best judge of change in your normal body patterns. If one is beginning to experience 2-3 of the signs mentioned here, then it may be a cause of concern,” adds Jayaraman.
Delicate blood vessels in the eyes are easily damaged by a corrosive and inflammatory element such as excess blood sugar, and vision begins to deteriorate. “A lot of times people find out about their diabetes through a check-up with their eye doctors,” explains Jayaraman.
How to avoid diabetes
Prevention, as they say, is really the best cure. To reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, the most important thing you can do is control your weight. If you already have the disorder, losing weight can improve your health and blood sugar control. “Being active can also help prevent or control the disorder. One can prevent the occurrence of diabetes by including lesser carbs in the diet, with regular exercise, weight reduction, quitting addiction and regular health checkups,” says Dr Sharma.