Diabetes is one of the most common lifestyle diseases, with a global prevalence of 9.3% and affecting around 463 million people worldwide.
It is also known as the silent killer. It is aptly termed so because most people do not show symptoms initially or fail to recognize the early signs.
2023 marks 100 years since scientists Frederick Banting and John Macleod were awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition of the discovery of insulin.
Know the Disease: Diabetes and its Types
Characterized by its chronic nature, diabetes disrupts the body's ability to convert food into essential energy.
With diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin—a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells—or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.
Type 1 and type 2 are the most widely known types of diabetes. But a lesser-known fact is that there are more than two types of this illness, such as monogenic diabetes, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, diabetes caused by rare syndromes, medication-induced diabetes, and gestational diabetes, among others.
Pre-diabetes and types 1 & 2 are the most common types of diabetes. Their screening and testing methods are similar, too. Pre-diabetes is a health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. It's essentially an intermediate stage in the development of diabetes.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are chronic conditions that impact how the body manages blood glucose.
Type 1 diabetes, often termed juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This results in little to no insulin production, requiring individuals to take insulin externally.
On the other hand, in Type 2, the body becomes resistant to insulin, leading to the pancreas initially producing more insulin to compensate. However, the pancreas cannot sustain the increased demand over time, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. Genetics, combined with lifestyle elements like obesity, lack of physical activity, and an imbalanced diet, contribute significantly to its emergence.
Type 2 Diabetes and Young Adults
The prevalence of type-2 diabetes among young adults is a matter of concern.
As reported by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 25.3 percent of individuals under the age of 25 who are diagnosed with diabetes are afflicted with type-2 diabetes.
This demographic, comprising the most productive years of one's life, is increasingly affected by diabetes. Failure to diagnose and manage this condition adequately in its early stages poses a heightened risk of chronic diseases and could significantly impact the life expectancy of forthcoming generations.
Reasons for Prevalence
The prevalence of type-2 diabetes in young adults in India can be attributed to several significant factors.
Foremost among these is the alarming rise in obesity rates, which stands as the most substantial risk factor for the condition. Over recent years, there has been a dramatic surge in obesity among young adults in the country.
An equally important concern is the inactive lifestyle of many young adults in India. They do not engage in any form of physical activity and spend extended hours sitting. This sedentary lifestyle serves as another risk factor for type-2 diabetes.
Furthermore, dietary habits have shifted towards greater consumption of processed foods and sugary beverages, which are calorie-dense but nutrient-poor, directly contributing to the twin problems of obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Genetics also exert their influence, as a family history of type-2 diabetes elevates one's susceptibility to the condition.
Identifying the symptoms
Diabetes presents with a spectrum of symptoms that can differ according to the type of diabetes and its duration.
Common indicators include increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
Treatment approaches for diabetes are determined by the type and severity of the condition. Type 1 diabetes typically necessitates insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump. In contrast, managing type 2 diabetes often involves lifestyle modifications.
Burden of the disease
When diabetes strikes young adults, it brings with it a substantial burden of disease. This burden manifests in multiple ways, beginning with the financial strain that results from the ongoing costs of diabetes management.
Beyond the financial aspect, there's the chronic disease burden, as these individuals must grapple with a host of complications, ranging from nerve damage (neuropathy) to eye problems (retinopathy), peripheral vascular diseases, and cardiovascular issues, all of which can significantly impact their long-term health and well-being.
Moreover, the quality of life for young adults living with diabetes is often diminished, with physiological and mental health challenges taking a toll on their overall well-being.
Thus, diabetes in young adults is not just a health concern but a multifaceted burden affecting various aspects of their lives.
If a young adult is diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, a number of things can be done to manage the condition.
This includes adhering to prescribed medications to reduce blood sugar levels and minimize the risk of complications.
Also, maintaining a diet that's high in protein, fiber and whole grains and low in carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugary drinks is equally important.
Incorporating regular physical activity, with a target of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, proves instrumental in regulating blood sugar levels and enhancing overall well-being.
Furthermore, vigilant monitoring of blood sugar levels is imperative, allowing for necessary adjustments in dietary choices, exercise routines, or medication regimens when required.
In addition to the above, it is also important for young adults with type-2 diabetes to:
Learn as much as they can about their condition. This will help them to make informed decisions about their care.
Get support from others with diabetes. Talking to others who understand what you are going through can be very helpful.
Stay positive and not give up. Managing type-2 diabetes can be challenging, but living a full and active life with the condition is possible.
In conclusion, addressing the growing prevalence of type-2 diabetes among young adults in India requires a multi-faceted approach.
Educating the younger generation about the condition and its risk factors, commencing from an early age and continuing through adolescence and adulthood, is paramount.
Utilizing diverse channels, such as schools, social media, and community outreach programs, ensures comprehensive awareness, prevention and management.