Victory is Sweet
India is already the diabetes capital of the world. How better to tackle the condition than with awareness? Prevention spoke to women across the country who developed diabetes at different ages, but all of whom beat it with lifestyle changes and medication. Their docs, who joined hands with them to fight the disease, also offer helpful tips on how to make the best of life even with diabetes.
Conquer the condition with knowledge
Geetika Singh, 35, New Delhi
GEETIKA was 17. During her visit to her uncle's (a physician) place, he noticed that her water consumption was abnormally high, that she passed urine frequently and was extraordinarily hungry. He suggested a random sugar test and the reports revealed a high blood sugar at 285 mg/dl. Geetika was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. "I took it up as a challenge," she says. With die-hard confidence (she learnt to take insulin shots on her own, read journals, attended forums) and support from all quarters (her family, friends, in-laws, even her hostel mess) Geetika has managed it well. Today, Geetika has a 5-year-old daughter and shuttles easily between her job and a busy household. She takes her shots and meals on time, checks her blood sugar three to five times a day, does yoga daily, goes for health check-ups every six months. She's also a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Maharashtra.
Almost nine out of 10 people with type 1 diabetes don't have a family history. In fact, if the mom suffers from type 1 diabetes, the chances of her passing it to the baby is less than 10%. In case of mothers with type 2 diabetes, the risk of passing it on is 30-50%.
Monitor regularly to manage it
Jyoti Anand Babbar, 27, New Delhi
JYOTI, always lean and healthy, was 26 when she became pregnant. An oral glucose tolerance test (OGT) revealed that she had gestational diabetes. The condition required close monitoring of blood sugar levels, healthy eating and proper medication. Her dietician determined her portion sizes and asked her to keep no more than a two-hour gap between meals. "These diet tweaks, along with frequent self-tests (after every meal) and four insulin shots a day up to my delivery tamed my blood sugar levels and helped me deliver a healthy baby," she says. "Now I don't forget to check my sugar levels after every five days and follow a balanced, healthy diet," she adds.
In India, gestational diabetes affects 10% of all pregnant women. Babies of moms with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of gaining weight and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Early screening saves the day
Malini Ganesh, 64, Chennai
MALINI had type 2 diabetes in her genes. "My father had it. Initially I was a borderline diabetic; this gradually turned to full-fledged type 2 diabetes a few years ago," she says. "I was never troubled by the typical symptoms of type 2 diabetes except for tiredness," she says. Now her sugar levels are completely under control with meds and lifestyle modifications. "Though I cannot do much due to foot pain, I walk and do yoga three to four days a week," she says. Malini keeps active through the day by taking small walking breaks. "I am conscious about my diet too: I eat brown rice, cook with vegetable oil and have sweets only occasionally," adds Malini. By pursuing her favourite hobbies, Malini never allows stress, a major trigger for diabetes, to bog her down.
According to WHO projections, India will be home to 20% of the world's diabetic population by 2030. This is because we are genetically more prone to insulin resistance and diabetes owing to our higher body fat percentage and waist to hip ratio as compared to other ethnic groups.
Tweak lifestyle to be safe
Mamiya Banerjee, 38, Kolkata
HEALTH was not a priority for Mamiya and she gained kilos every year. Result: high BP and borderline blood sugar that got ignored despite detection way back in 2004. Another test done in February, 2011 revealed that her blood sugar had risen to a dangerous 500 mg/dl, HbA1C 12.5% and TSH 10.74 mIU/l. "I was shocked," recalls Mamiya, "especially because I felt no obvious symptoms." She was immediately put on insulin shots for the next four months, advised a strict 800-calorie diet, regular walks, daily monitoring, and foot care and hygiene. "I followed instructions to the T; in the next four months I lost 11 kilos, my TSH reduced to 0.006 and HbA1C 7%," says Mamiya. She was off insulin and shifted to the once-a-day injectable liraglutide. Currently at 68 kilos, Mamiya is on an 800-calorie diet, has three meals and two snacks a day, and makes sure she walks 30 minutes every evening. She avoids eating out and is health conscious as never before.
Losing just 5 to 7% of your body weight can reduce your risk drastically. Even if you are already diabetic, losing a moderate amount of weight can dramatically slow the progression of the disease.
BY KATHAKOLI DASGUPTA AND SASWATI SARKAR