In Kerala, around 20 per cent of adults (one in five persons) have diabetes, which amounts to at least 50 lakh patients.
With around 42 crore, including 8 crore Indians, people identified as suffering from diabetes, it has become one of the most deadly lifestyle diseases. The world observes November 14, which marks the birthday of Frederick Banting who played a significant role in the discovery of insulin, as the World Diabetes Day to create awareness to fight this global menace.
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The situation is no different in Kerala, where around 20 per cent of adults (one in five persons) have diabetes, which amounts to at least 50 lakh patients.
Women and diabetes
The theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day is women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future. One out of every ten women in the world is a diabetic patient; and one out of seven pregnant women is affected by gestational diabetes. In Kerala the number of women having gestational diabetes is alarmingly higher than the global standards, which could lead to high blood pressure, large fetus and complications during childbirth that could prove fatal for both mother and the new born.
Many reports suggest that the gender disparities that exist in the society lead to the failure of identifying the disease at the right time in women and providing adequate medical assistance. Women who have diabetes often face discrimination as their well being is completely ignored. The domestic responsibilities that are traditionally conferred upon women acts as barriers for women to engage in the necessary physical exercises; and thereby safeguard the heath and well being of themselves. Keeping this in view, the International Diabetes Foundation has adopted ‘women and diabetes’ as this year’s theme.
It is estimated that a diabetes patient spends at least Rs 25,000 per annum as medical expenses. If the heart, kidneys and nerves are affected, the amount will further shoot up.
Keralites exhibit poor standards in maintaining a control over lifestyle diseases like diabetes even when they boast themselves as being experts in medical care and health literacy. Diabetes is determined by the HbA1c blood test; and it can be said that diabetes is under control if the HbA1c levels are below 6.5 per cent. But only one among five diabetic patients in Kerala is able to maintain these levels. More than half of the diabetic patients here have HbA1c levels above 7.5 per cent. There are even people who hardly does an HbA1c test in their lives; so the number of undetected diabetes patients are also high in Kerala. It indicates that in the future, the number of Keralites suffering from heart ailments, kidney failure, retinopathy and neuropathy which are caused mostly by undetected or uncontrolled diabetes will be alarmingly high.
There are many reasons for the increase of diabetic patients in Kerala; the main being unhealthy food habits, lack of exercise, fear for medicines, reluctance to receive insulin injections and craze for fake medications.
It is high time that we as a community work together for controlling diabetes which could harm the general well being of the population and eventually affect even the economy of our nation.
(The author is a Diabetes Specialist in Palakkad)