Today, we’re shedding light on a silent invader that’s gradually becoming a significant health concern in our vibrant Indian landscape – diabetes. Diabetes, a chronic metabolic condition marked by high blood sugar levels, has emerged as a major public health concern across the world. The disease has become a full-fledged epidemic in India over the last few decades, with a tremendous increase in frequency. Given the fact that India is documenting higher numbers of newly diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes, this blog attempts to shed light on the fundamental elements contributing to India’s diabetes epidemic and explain viable solutions to this important public health problem.
Diabetes: The unseen predator
Diabetes, often seen as an urban lifestyle disease, is a condition where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use it effectively. A chronic condition, diabetes can lead to severe complications if not managed effectively.
The Diabetes epidemic in India
India, home to a diverse cuisine and a sweeter-than-sugar festive culture, is unfortunately also becoming a home for diabetes with an alarming rise in diabetes cases, both type 1 and type 2. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India ranked second in the world for the highest number of adults living with diabetes in 2019, with an estimated 101 million cases. This number is projected to reach 134 million by 2045 if urgent action is not taken. Moreover, an additional 136 million people are pre-diabetic.
This is concerning since it is estimated that nearly half of pre-diabetics will develop diabetes within the next five years. More than half of all diabetics are ignorant of their condition, which can lead to serious health risks of heart attack and stroke, if not diagnosed and treated early.
Several factors contribute to the diabetes epidemic in India:
Urban vs Rural Divide
Historically more prevalent in urban areas, recent years have seen a rise in diabetes cases in rural regions too.
Rapid urbanisation, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, and increased stress levels are the main culprits contributing to the rise in diabetes.
There is compelling evidence that Indians are genetically prone to diabetes and have higher levels of insulin resistance. Furthermore, most Indians have a lot of belly fat, also known as visceral fat, which makes them more prone to the condition.
Poor Dietary Habits
According to a prospective study, diets high in refined carbs, unhealthy fats, and high-fat foods have grown widespread in India, increasing the diabetes epidemic.
Lack of Awareness
A lack of information about diabetes and its risk factors leads to delayed diagnosis and ineffective care, according to a study conducted across the country.
Strategies to fight the diabetes epidemic
While diabetes is a significant health concern, the good news is that it can be prevented and managed effectively. Here’s how:
Early Detection and Screening
Regular health check-ups for assessing diabetes risk, as well as screening programmes for those at high risk of diabetes, can lead to early detection and timely preventive treatment.
Health Education and Awareness
Educating the public on diabetes management, risk factors, and the importance of a sedentary lifestyle can empower individuals to make informed choices.
Dietary Health Promotion
Encouraging the use of nutritious carbs, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat milk, while limiting the consumption of sugary and processed meals, can have a substantial impact on diabetes prevention and management. A diet rich in fibre, low in sugar and unhealthy fats, and filled with a good balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can go a long way in managing blood sugar levels.
Regular Physical Activity
Physical activity not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also aids in controlling blood glucose levels. Organising educational programmes, workplace initiatives, and community activities to promote all types of exercise—aerobic, resistance, or a combination of the two (combined training)—in order to reduce HbA1c levels in people with diabetes.
High stress levels can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Techniques like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can help manage stress.
Access to Affordable Healthcare
Improving access to diabetes care and treatment by expanding healthcare infrastructure and providing affordable medications can make a substantial difference in improving the glycemic health of the Indian adult population.
Companies can play a role to optimize the glycemic health and health outcomes across the adult population. This can be achieved by implementing wellness programs that include healthy food options, fitness facilities, and stress management resources for their employees.
Policies affecting diabetes prevention at the population level, such as taxation on sugary beverages, monitoring food supply quality, clear food labelling, and restrictions on marketing of unhealthy foods, can discourage their consumption and promote healthier choices.
Diabetes might seem like a colossal mountain, but remember, every mountain can be scaled one step at a time. It’s high time we roll up our sleeves, strap on our boots, and face this challenge head-on. And who knows, someday soon, India might be known not as the diabetes capital, but as the country that bravely fought and defeated diabetes!
But it requires coordination among numerous stakeholders in both clinical and community settings. Individuals, communities, legislators, and industries, in addition to health professionals and healthcare systems, are collectively accountable for assessing diabetes risk, ordering screening tests, maintaining screening test results, and engaging in preventative therapies.
We can collectively act to halt the rising tide of diabetes in India by raising awareness, supporting healthy lifestyles, improving access to healthcare, and implementing supportive policies. It is critical that we act now to halt this epidemic and ensure a better life for future generations.