“World Diabetes Day” is celebrated on November 14 every year, in order to raise awareness of a condition that millions of people all around the world live with every day. Diabetes has now become a major public health concern, especially in India because of several reasons. Today, over 300 million people live with diabetes. A similar number is at high risk. Diabetes is a major health issue in our country. One of the important barriers in handling this issue is the change in the behaviour of the people and awareness on the importance of lifestyle modification. Diabetes makes people prone to heart disease, kidney failure and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, among others, leading to premature death. Sugar is the new tobacco, experts, medical studies and health organisations have declared. The belief is that diabetes is an urban and rich man’s disease but we now know that the annual increase in the numbers of those with diabetes is much higher in the rural areas, poor individuals and those less educated. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation.
Diabetes isn’t deadly, it just needs regular monitoring and medication and disciplined living. Regular exercise and healthy eating are the only ways to control blood sugar levels and stay fit. Diabetes is not a disease but a metabolic disorder. Acceptance of the problem is the first step to dealing with it. We need to take to heart the statement that “strengthening primary care is imperative”. This is true about not only diabetes, but for all widely prevalent and enduring ailments. Many patients think that mere changes in food habits and taking alternative therapy can control diabetes but that’s impossible. Lifestyle correction is a must, but one cannot stop insulin intake. Not taking insulin leads to the formation of ulcers, infections and high sugar levels. Excessive urine, thirst and hunger, unexplained weight loss and fatigue are some of the common symptoms. All of these occur due to insulin deficiency.
According to the Diabetes Foundation of India, about 50.9 million people in India suffer from diabetes, and this figure is likely to go up to 80 million by 2025, making it the ‘Diabetes Capital’ of the world.
Unhealthy diet is one major cause of the disorder. People focus on reducing the quantity of food but are unaware of the caloric value of the food items they consume. The medical fraternity needs to gear up to the challenge of preventing, diagnosing and treating diabetes in society and people. Several institutes have initiated in-service programmes to enhance the knowledge, skills and core competencies of primary care physicians to deliver standardised care.
We need to work collaboratively with governments, civil society, private sectors, schools, workplaces, media and other local partners. We all have a role to play to ensure a healthier environment for a healthy living. Walking is perhaps the simplest and the most effective way to maintain one’s health, and for diabetics to manage the chronic disease as it doesn’t require any training or special equipment, which means it can be done without a break. Living with diabetes may not be easy but it isn’t impossible either. A new lifestyle and dietary changes is all it takes to keep the disease in control.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)