Diabetes and the family

Diabetes and the family

Photo for representation.

Diabetes or Sugar Diabetes is known medically as Diabetes Mellitus. The ancient Indian surgeon Sushruta called this condition Madhumeha. People with this health disorder have higher blood glucose levels than normal. Leading to increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, boils on the skin, delayed wound-healing and more symptoms.

In India, there are approximately 75 million adults who are known to have diabetes. One in two people who have diabetes, unfortunately, are not aware that they have this condition.

The detection rates for the disease can increase by raising awareness about this problem and the symptoms and providing opportunities for increased screening of high-risk individuals who are overweight or suffering from obesity.

People with sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy food habits, family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, women with a history of gestational diabetes, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, the elderly are especially vulnerable to diabetes. Diabetes is diagnosed based on blood tests in the laboratory.

Of the different kinds of diabetes, type two or adult-onset diabetes contributes to about 90% of the cases. Here, the body does not use insulin properly, and over time, insulin
production also declines. This type of diabetes can be treated by lifestyle modifications, tablets and injectable medications.

Type one diabetes usually affects children— it occurs when one’s immune system mistakenly attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to severe insulin deficiency. People who afflicted with type one diabetes are dependant on insulin injections for life. Gestational or pregnancy diabetes, and other rarer forms of diabetes contribute to remaining cases of diabetes.

Indians are now at higher risk of getting type two diabetes and heart disease due to unhealthy lifestyle, eating habits that are related to rapid urbanisation, along with predisposing genetic risk factors.

Therefore, healthy eating and regular exercise is of paramount importance in avoiding these problems. It’s beneficial to keep Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 23, and waist-circumference less than 78 cm (men), less than 72 cm (women). It’s important to inculcate healthy habits from childhood – eating healthy at home and schools, and regular outdoor physical activities.

At least 60 minutes per day should be spent playing sports, and screen time (TV, Computers and videogames) should be restricted to less than two hours per day. Avoiding junk food or processed food is important.

In adults, the advice regarding physical activity is to ‘start slow and increase gradually’. Any exercise is better than no exercise. Doing exercise 60 minutes per day on at least five days a week is recommended.

This includes brisk walking, jogging, cycling, one could also add weight-training to their routine. Exercise during work hours is encouraged – taking stairs instead of elevators or escalators, walking during lunchtime is recommended.

Yoga and meditation are known to reduce stress, along with physical exercise, as it gives one a sense of well-being. Scientific research has shown that weight-loss by following a healthy active lifestyle can reduce the risk of getting type two diabetes 

The theme of the World Diabetes Day 2019 is the family and its relation to diabetes. It is well recognised that diabetes not only affects the patient but also has an impact on the psycho-socio-economics of the family. A supportive family is known to improve the health outcomes of the diabetes-patient.

Education and raising awareness about diabetes in the family can positively contribute to the team effort in beating diabetes.

It promotes a healthy environment at home, and hence, a good life-style. Awareness about the symptoms of diabetes among family members can ensure that undetected cases are detected early and reduce the risk of delayed treatment, and therefore reduce complications. Diabetes if left unchecked can cause complications in heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, legs or feet, brain and gum.


(The writer is the consultant Endocrinologist and Head of Department at Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru)