“Give up the bread and biscuits,” said the doctor, to a stunned audience of men and women, who clearly weren’t ready to accept that some of their favourite foods were actually contributing to ill health. Unsure smiles and murmurs of protest could be heard in response, followed by a stream of questions: What about the whole-wheat bread in bakeries? Oatmeal bread? Marie biscuits? The doctor raised his eyebrows skeptically. “All of them consist of white flour mainly, which damages the body.”
Organized by the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) of C block, Greater Kailash-I, this Sunday morning talk in a park by Delhi based endocrinologist Dr. Monashis Sahu on diabetes was intended to provide neighbourhood dwellers essential information and answers to common queries: Why does diabetes develop in some people, what are the signs and symptoms, what kind of lifestyle changes will prevent the onset and progression of this disease, and so on. Surprisingly, the audience consisted mainly of the elderly, despite the growing incidence of diabetes among the young and middle aged in the country.
India is facing a shocking rise in the incidence of lifestyle or non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and type II diabetes. NCDs in India already account for about 17 per cent of global deaths, and strike at a younger age — the average age at onset of diabetes in India, for instance, is 51 years vs. 58 in the US. Despite our awareness about the importance of healthy eating and regular exercise, most of us are unable to create a lifestyle that wards off disease. Preventive health is still more a notion than a reality.
Erratic mealtimes, processed foods, high stress levels, smoking and lack of physical activity are the main risk factors for diabetes. “Though we criticize genes constantly, the family risk factor only contributes slightly,” said Dr. Sahu. Blood sugar levels vary as we age, and it’s important to keep this in mind. “A young or middle aged person whose fasting sugar level is 120 needs to start taking action, as this signifies pre-diabetes,” says Dr. Sahu. When asked about the efficacy of herbal and alternative medicine, the doctor’s advice was to avoid taking powders or formulations with a questionable content. “Eating Tulsi leaves or drinking ginger tea is fine,” he said. Aside from cultivating healthy eating and exercise patterns, he emphasized the importance of tackling stress effectively for both the prevention and treatment of diabetes. His mantra? “Meditate, work your core and do breathing exercises like Kapal Bhati and Anulom Vilom.”