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World Diabetes Day -- Let Us All Be Aware!

Posted Dec 12 2008 2:53pm
Today is World Diabetes Day and even as I speak, I recently learnt of two people very close to me who have been diagnosed with this incurable and incredibly frustrating condition, one an elderly person and the other quite young.

World Diabetes Day was first introduced in 1991 by the joint efforts of the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization. The Day had been made official last year by the United Nations, and this could not come at a better time. Cases of obesity and diabetes are rising alarmingly, now an epidemic that rises above race or creed.

Dear Readers, please light the candle I've put up on the sidebar (just move your mouse over the candle) in honor of all people who struggle everyday with this disease, and pledge to make all your loved ones, young and old alike, aware of this insidious condition that is changing many lives around the world.

The theme for two years, 2007 and 2008, appropriately belongs to children -- Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. Start small, think preventive. Type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes is a condition whereby the patient's body is unable to produce insulin and the patient requires life-long injections of this hormone for basic metabolism of food. This is no life for a child, and yet the disease is growing very fast amongst us all.

Diabetes Type 2 (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus), on the other hand, is characterized by insulin resistance whereby body cells do not respond to the hormone, though insulin production may or may not be impaired much. This is a milder form of the disease and if found out early, can be treated with simple dietary modifications and regular exercise (often easier said than done!). However, symptoms can be easily overlooked and the disease is most often found out at a later stage.

Diabetes Type 2, in my family, is genetically transmitted. My family, close as well as extended (including distant cousins, aunts, uncles, etc), at least until our generation, has come from a rural background where family members have an active lifestyle, eat whole grains and are less exposed to processed foodstuff. Despite this, many people I know are succumbing to this disease. So I cannot stress enough, diabetes is hereditary, especially in these times of long lives and sedentary lifestyles. The disease has been wired into our genes.

Having diabetes is a struggle, for the patients as well as for their loved ones. The struggle begins with the diagnosis and goes on with every mouthful that the patient takes in. It insinuates itself in both the physical and the emotional well-being of the person. Diabetes itself does not kill, it is the complications arising from the effects of high blood sugar on major organs that make this disease fatal. Patients constantly live under this threat and are often restricted from normal lifestyle habits.

Dietary restrictions are often severe. Even after extensive research on my part, I still find so many gaps in the meal plans I follow and the final effects that show up in blood sugar readings.
Our eating habits no longer resemble what they were formerly (and our lifestyle had been pretty much healthy to start with!), and though I am able to introduce a lot of variations to the usual fare, it is not uncommon to feel this inner anger and pain when your loved one(s) is/are denied the simple pleasures that millions of others unthinkingly are able to partake in and often take for granted.

While technology has progressed rapidly in leaps and bounds, and while our food habits have altered equally speedily in a bid to make our lives easier and less consumed with cooking chores, our bodies have not adjusted to this sudden change. Perhaps that is why we are becoming more and more vulnerable to metabolic diseases. A sedentary lifestyle does not help either. It is up to each one of us to make wise choices and educate ourselves on what is best for us and our bodies. Let us all do our bit to make people around us aware!
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