The escalating diabetes epidemic poses a significant threat to the nation's health, with an estimated 77 million adults in India living with diabetes in 2020, a number projected to reach 134 million by 2045. The prevalence of diabetes is not just confined to urban areas but is increasingly impacting the rural populations as well, pointing to the widespread nature of this health challenge.
According to Dr Jasjeet Singh Wasir, Director, Endocrinology and Diabetology, Medanta, Gurugram, the surge in affected individuals has led to an unprecedented burden of diabetes, not only due to the growing numbers but also the heightened risk of individuals with diabetes developing cardiovascular and kidney complications. This underscores the impact of diabetes on both the 'Quality' and 'Quantity' of life for those affected.
Factors Contributing to the Diabetes Epidemic:
Multiple factors contribute to the diabetes epidemic in India. The primary reason for the rising occurrence of diabetes can be attributed to a high genetic/ethnic predisposition for diabetes. This predisposition is further exacerbated by the rapid socio-demographic, nutritional, environmental, and mental changes, or transitions, fueling the diabetes epidemic in the country.
Proactive Measures to Tackle Diabetes:
Promoting Healthy Lifestyles:
Encouraging healthy lifestyles is paramount in the battle against diabetes. Initiatives can include replacing junk food and sugary items with nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which can help maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Moreover, regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, while also keeping the glucose levels controlled. A healthy lifestyle also inculcates abstaining from smoking, drinking, and other activities that could negatively affect blood pressure.
Early Detection and Management:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the longer an individual lives with diabetes that remains undiagnosed and untreated, the more adverse their health outcomes are expected to be.5 Timely detection and management are vital to effective diabetes management, which can be achieved through routine health examinations, along with screening initiatives targeting individuals with a heightened risk of diabetes.
Enhancing Access and Technology:
For tackling the growing diabetes burden, increasing access to healthcare is vital. This includes expanding access to affordable screening facilities, ensuring the availability of diabetes medications, and training healthcare professionals at the grassroots level. Further, embracing technology can revolutionize diabetes management. Mobile applications that assist in monitoring blood sugar levels, provide dietary guidance, and offer virtual consultations with healthcare professionals can empower individuals to take control of their health. Telemedicine can also play a vital role in reaching remote areas.
Enhancing Education and Awareness:
Addressing the lack of awareness is crucial for the early detection and management of diabetes. Public health campaigns should emphasize the importance of regular health check-ups, understanding diabetes symptoms, risk factors, and the significance of early intervention.
Implementing Policy Interventions:
Government policies can significantly impact the diabetes landscape. Implementing policies that regulate the food industry, promote the inclusion of nutritional information on food labels, and discourage the marketing of unhealthy foods can contribute to preventing diabetes. Tax incentives for companies producing healthy food alternatives can also be explored. The alarming projections for the future demand urgent and coordinated efforts from healthcare professionals, policymakers, communities, and individuals.