21st first century- India is passing through an epidemic outbreak. The old killers such as infections and malnutrition are decreasing rapidly. But there has been an increase in the “disease of prosperity”, type 2 diabetes. India is a home to 35 million people with diabetes, nearly 15% of the global diabetes burden and it is predicted that this will increase to 75 million by 2025.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In this problem, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore insulin, a hormone secreted from pancreas. This hormone is necessary for the body to use glucose for energy. When you eat food the body breaks down all the sugar and starches into glucose that is the basic fuels for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the glucose from the blood into cells. When the glucose builds up in the blood instead of going to cells, it can lead to diabetes.
What worries the health professional is that type 2 diabetes is spreading very fast. This is known as a ‘disease of Profusion’. Main reasons for the epidemic are:
- It attacks people who want to have an easier lifestyle, do less physical activities. Very few people undertake regular exercise anymore. They prefer to drive to and from work and use spare time watching TV. Even kids have become victims of sedentary lifestyle. They also want to sit in front of TV to watch their favorite channels and playing video games, leading to emergence of a generation of obese children.
- Diet is another reason leading to the increase of this disease. People change their diet away from fresh vegetables & fruits. In its place, we now have ‘calorie rich fast foods’ or ‘ready-to-eat stuff’ that is better known as ‘junk foods’ and are harmful for health.
- Our switch to a more ‘modern lifestyle’ that is far from the Indian way of life, is multiplying the problem and driving us even closer to diabetes. Our work culture, social demands, current economic situation are not left behind to act as a catalyst to this clumsy situation. If you look at the city life, both parents need to work to meet their requirements and necessities and this leads to lack of time in their lives that they can spend at home for cooking healthy food. And the result is that it just does not affect their health but children become soft targets and victims of their hectic and busy social life.
Many of them do not realize that if they will adjust their life to sedentary lifestyle and consume more junk food, they are opening doors to obesity and diabetes. This is unbelievable that the country which is known for yoga than diseases is today leading the figures of global top ten in terms of highest number of people in diabetes. Because many people are opting for convenience foods that their wealth allows, they are ignorant that this can only make them feel good for a short period but actually it’s cheating them in the long run.
What consequences does epidemic of diabetes have for India?
Diabetes can lead to heart attacks, kidney failure, blindness, and foot amputations. The treatment of diabetes and its complications costs a lot and can put financial burden on an individual and the families in addition to the mental and psychological stress that it brings. Moreover, since Indians develop diabetes early in life, diabetic complications tend to set in during middle age which is the most important phase in each profession. The loss to the individual and the nation is beyond calculation.
At present, we should take some serious steps to control this problem.
1. We should include healthy lifestyle in our population so that they can either prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. This problem is mostly because of extra weight that makes harder for the body to use insulin properly. Making healthy food choices and getting enough exercise are good steps to help prevent diabetes.
2. We should get inclined to good food. Try to eat food that are low in saturated fat, Trans fat, sugar and high in fiber. For instance, whole grain cereals and bread, fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, cheese, lean meats and other sources of proteins. Eating too much fat and sugar can lead to overweight and onset of type 2 diabetes. Try to cut back on sugary drinks like sodas, juices, iced teas and fatty fast foods.
3. Staying active is the better choice than watching TV or playing video games. Increasing physical activity takes only a little goodwill and effort from our part. There is no need to join gym or buying expensive equipment. Simple steps like walking the dog, running around the yard, playing soccer with friends, taking stairs instead of elevators, parking car little farther and cover rest of the distance by walking. Try to do something that gets you moving.
All the steps need to be taken at a very young age. Spreading the Mantra of physical activity and healthy eating in school children will yield the most benefit. A child in whom a healthy lifestyle has been included will grow up to be a healthy adult. Prevention steps should start now so that we can abort this epidemic at its emerging stage.
Author: Deepmala Chowdhary is Nutrition expert with over 10 yrs of experience. Guiding patients toward healthy living and disease free life is here area of interest.
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