#WorldDiabetesDay: Diabetes is not a solitary illness, but a family affair

Early diagnosis and subsequent treatment will help to reduce the disease burden of diabetes. Around 80% cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. When a family eats healthy meals and exercises together, all family members can benefit from it

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Most people think of diabetes as only a disease with high blood sugar. While that’s true, it is also important to know that uncontrolled high blood sugar increases the risk of developing a number of serious health problems such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure. A lot of diabetes patients even lose their foot due to uncontrolled sugar.

In addition, people with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing infections. Maintaining blood sugar levels at or close to normal can help delay or prevent diabetes complications.

Therefore, people with diabetes need regular monitoring of blood sugar to keep it under control and regular check-up of body organs, especially eyes, kidneys and feet.

Dr Yogesh Kadam, a diabetologist, said, “Diabetes is considered as a lifestyle disease due to its chronic nature and it requires maintaining a certain lifestyle. Its effect can be seen in younger population along with older population.”

Dr Kadam added, “Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease in both men and women. However, it has a greater impact on women’s heart health than men’s. In women, the risk factors are high. Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths each year. As a result of socioeconomic conditions, girls and women with diabetes experience barriers in accessing cost-effective diabetes prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care, particularly in developing countries.”

He further said, “Families of persons living with diabetes play an important part in detecting, preventing and managing the disease.  With a diabetic in the family, it is even more important to go for regular health checks and screening to detect diabetes early, so that the nasty complications can be prevented. It is important to be aware of early warning signs of Diabetes such as frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger, fatigue, etc. and these should not be ignored if a family member or a first degree relative is suffering from diabetes.”

Gestational diabetes mellitus is increasingly becoming common in Indian women with prevalence in some areas as high as 20%. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), is when a woman without diabetes, develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

This condition makes the mother and the child at high risk for developing diabetes in the future after delivery. Maintaining healthy weight with regular exercise and healthy diet may prevent or delay the development of diabetes in the mother.

Dr Nitin Gade, a diabetologist from Pune said, “Around 80% cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. When a family eats healthy meals and exercises together, all family members benefit and encourage behaviours that could help prevent type 2 diabetes in the family.”

Dr Gade added, “Managing diabetes requires daily treatment, regular monitoring, a healthy lifestyle and on-going education. Family meals should be planned taking into account the calorie and nutrient requirements specific to the patient.”

He stated, “Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and is the key to keep sugar levels under control. Also, exercising together with family and exercise groups, rather than alone ensures consistency in the activity leading to better outcomes. Family members also need to be educated in monitoring if blood glucose levels and to recognise warning signs and symptoms of complications such as blurred vision, non-healing wounds, etc.”

In conclusion, the diagnosis of diabetes means repercussions for the entire family of the patient. With adequate family involvement, it is possible to keep diabetes in check. With awareness, information, and proactive conversation, we can make sure that our legacy is not type 2 diabetes, but a habit of healthy family living.