In the past, type 2 diabetes usually affected people post their forties. However, with drastic lifestyle changes, diabetes has become increasingly common among youngsters. With changes in dietary factors, increasing cases of obesity, and low levels of physical activity, it is not wrong to say that diabetes is currently emerging as a severe health concern worldwide.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the estimated number of people who had diabetes in India during 2019 was 77 million individuals, which is expected to rise to over 134 million by 2045. This increase in cases is a call to people at risk of contracting diabetes to make lifestyle changes so that they can slow or reverse the progress of the disease.
In an exclusive interaction with OnlyMyHealth editorial team, Dr Sweta Budyal, Consultant Endocrinologist & Diabetologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, explains the importance of early diagnosis and management of diabetes in children and young adults.
What are the factors that are contributing to rising cases of diabetes?
Two main factors can impact or increase a person's risk of Type 2 diabetes. The first is a sedentary or inactive lifestyle with very little physical activity. When coupled with a diet that is unhealthy or high in processed foods or added sugars, the chances of getting diabetes can increase substantially. This is because both these factors lead to obesity, a significant risk factor for an individual to get diabetes. In fact, for some people, losing weight may be an excellent method to delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Why is the prevention of diabetes important in growing adults?
Since children and growing adults need proper growth and nutrition, early diagnosis and management are essential, especially if they have been diagnosed with diabetes at an early age. This is because when diabetes is not controlled, it can cause severe health problems, including mood changes and organ damage. Some complications of uncontrolled diabetes include frequent infection, heart and kidney problems, and diabetic ketoacidosis. It can become fatal in cases where it is not treated on time, as diabetes has also been linked to cardiac arrests and stroke.
What risk factors affect the rising cases of diabetes in children and young people?
- A person who is below 18 may benefit from diabetes screening if they the following factors:
- A body mass index or BMI over the 85th percentile
- Possible symptoms of type 2 diabetes
- Health conditions like high blood pressure
- Close family member with type 2 diabetes
- A woman who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy
How can diabetes be prevented or reversed?
Multiple studies have proven that it is possible not just to treat but even reverse type 2 diabetes. Some of these measures include the following:
1. Plan healthier meals
A plant-based meal with lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish) and whole grains is an excellent recommendation as they can help reduce sugar levels in the body. Contact a dietitian for better input if you are confused about the types of meals to plan to reduce diabetes.
2. Exercise every day
While you do not need to run a marathon, being physically active for even 20 minutes a day can significantly change your overall lifestyle.
Medications to treat diabetics include metformin, sulphonylureas, DPP4 inhibitors, pioglitazone, SGLT2 inhibitors, GLP1R agonist and insulin. However, these medicines should only be taken after a proper prescription from a specialized doctor.
In conclusion, diabetes affects many people around the globe, with the number of people with diabetes nearly quadrupling from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, according to the World Health Organisation. However, there is still hope with constant health check-ups and awareness campaigns, and it is possible to reverse these numbers and get people to live a healthier and more active life.