Diabetes has already affected 350 million people worldwide and is quickly catching up in India, with figures exceeding 6.5 crore (around 5% of general population). Delhi is leading the numbers with a whopping 42% of its population being estimated to be diabetic, followed by Mumbai (38%), Ahmedabad (36%) and Bangalore (26%). To make matters worse, WHO (world health organisation) says that half of those affected didn’t even know they were diabetic until they accidentally found out while getting screened for other ailments!
Most doctors say that people don’t take diabetes with the seriousness it deserves until it paves way for serious complications later. And those with prediabetes (aka on-the-borderline) should buckle up and prevent any further worsening sugar levels.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot synthesise insulin adequately leading to high sugar levels in the blood. There are three types:
Type 1 Diabetes: Where the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. This is also called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes: 90% diabetic patients suffer from Type 2. Here insulin is produced by the pancreas, but the body cells resist and stop responding to insulin. It mainly results from being obese and leading an unhealthy lifestyle – both largely preventable.
Gestational Diabetes: Where pregnant women, without any previous history of diabetes, develop high blood sugar levels.
Immediate Lifestyle changes
Eating right and exercising are the easiest ways to take control of your health. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, if not postponed for at least another 10 years, provided you make the necessary changes to your lifestyle.
Lose excess body fat: If your BMI is more than 30, it means you are obese and that is the prime reason for diabetes among Asians. So avoid sedentary lifestyle (sitting idle for > 90 min at a stretch).
Exercise daily: If your muscles are exerted, they utilise and thereby lower the blood glucose, making you sensitive to insulin.
Walking/Running/Cycling/Swimming for a minimum of 150 minutes per week (>30 min per day for 5 days with not more than 2 consecutive days for rest) will cut your risk of diabetes by more than a third!
Lifting weights and building muscle in the gym is also great if your physician okays it first.
Check your sugar levels every day and the number of calories burnt before/after each exercise session. If your blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/Dl, eat a little before you start working out.
Manage stress: Too much stress has a direct link to your blood sugar levels. So if you are anxious and stressed about something, stress hormones are released and the blood pressure increases. At this junction, your other bodily functions take a back seat, thereby putting you at risk. Yoga and meditation are the best ways to fight stress. Also if you sleep for at least 7 hours a day, you can cut down fat and also be more motivated.
Avoid smoking and alcohol: Smoking affects your body’s sensitivity to insulin and damages the blood vessels through inflammation. Alcohol consumption means higher sugar intake, making your weight stats shoot out of the chart. Therefore, limit your alcohol as much as possible and quit smoking. Take medical help if needed.
Immediate Dietary changes
Taking control of your diet is very crucial to keep diabetes in check. You should know which foods do what to your sugar levels so that you can keep a track of what goes into your plate every day.
- Beware of eating too much rice, because carbohydrates turn into sugars and have a big impact on your sugar levels. So learn to count the calories, especially if you are under insulin dosage.
- Reduce the intake of fatty foods. Not more than 25% of your calories must come from fats in your diet. Fast foods like chips, biscuits and carbonated drinks have lots of sugar in them that need to be avoided.
- Reduce your weight if you are obese. Try and stay in the healthy range of BMI index.
- Incorporate high fibre foods into your diet. Vegetables, beans, lentils and fruits.
- If you are a non-vegetarian, avoid/reduce the intake of processed meat. You can opt for lean meat sources like chicken, fish, sirloin, steak- preferably without deep frying or roasting.
- There is no food that is completely banned from eating, but care should be taken that everything is balanced and eaten in the right proportions.
- Eating too much or eating too little is also dangerous as directly affects the sugar levels.
We acknowledge that not all patients with type 2 diabetes have the same set of dietary requirements. So please consult a dietitian or a nutritionist so that you can tailor the diet plan suitable.