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Healthians Study Reveals 11.45% Rise in Diabetic Patients During Lockdown

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Article by Dr. Sonal Saxena

In a study conducted across India, Healthians, a leading diagnostics at-home brand has found that there has been a marked rise in the number of people suffering from diabetes during the lockdown. 

It is an ironic revelation that the lockdown which was instituted to save the health of people and keep them safe from immediate health risks has had an adverse effect on the long term outlook for health.

The study is significant in light of the fact that data was collected from more than 75000 patients, which indicates a clear trend in how people’s behaviours have had an effect on their health.

The data also proves research correct, that men are more susceptible to diabetes than women. The percentage increase in men affected by diabetes rose by 13.34 % as compared to women who witnessed a rise of 10.6%.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. It is a disease that prevents the body from properly using the energy from the food that we eat.

Diabetes occurs in one of the following situations:

The pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) produces little insulin or no insulin at all or 

The pancreas makes insulin, but the insulin made doesn’t work as it should. This condition is called insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the bloodstream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells.

Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycaemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.

The causes of diabetes are not known. There are risk factors that may increase the chance of getting diabetes in an individual are:

  • Family history of diabetes or a personal history of gestational diabetes.
  • Ethnic background.
  • Injury to the pancreas (such as infection, tumour, surgery, or accident).
  • Autoimmune disease.
  • Age (risk increases with age).
  • Physical stress (such as surgery or illness).

There are other lifestyle related risk factors that an individual can control such as:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
  • Smoking.
  • Being overweight.
  • Use of certain medications, including steroids

It is important to note that sugar itself doesn’t cause diabetes. Eating a lot of sugar can lead to tooth decay, but it doesn’t cause diabetes. However, excessive intake of sugar, junk food, and starchy foods play havoc with cholesterol levels and also cause weight gain which has a direct impact on blood sugar levels.

During the lockdown, people have had to adapt their diets and lifestyle as per the restrictions. This meant that people who were already at risk for diabetes or were in a pre-diabetic stage were also consuming those foods that are harmful to them. Even people who are diabetic and manage their condition through diet and lifestyle changes have had to survive on the resources available. An important aspect of this is that usually during times where resources are constrained and there is limited availability of food, people stock up on staples and long-lasting food items like rice, wheat, and potatoes, etc which people with diabetes or risk of diabetes should ideally, not consume. This forced consumption could be a possible reason why the number of diabetic people has increased. This is also evidenced by the fact that even though the availability of junk food, processed or packaged food reduced drastically, the increase in the number of diabetics is uniformly spread across age groups. 

SMEStreet Healthcare Tips for Future-Ready Entrepreneurs is an initiative by SMEStreet Foundation basically to ensure a fit & healthy entrepreneur and intrapreneur for building a healthy Indian economy ahead.

The age group distribution of the data is also significant because diabetes that most commonly affects adults is usually preventable.  Children who are affected by diabetes usually suffer from Type 1 diabetes which has origins as an autoimmune disease.

There are three main types of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational.

  • Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but occurs most frequently in children and adolescents. When someone has type 1 diabetes, the body produces very little or no insulin, which means that he/she needs daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose levels under control.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases. When someone has type 2 diabetes, the body does not make good use of the insulin that it produces. The cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment is a healthy lifestyle, including increased physical activity and a healthy diet. However, over time most people with type 2 diabetes will require oral drugs and/or insulin to keep their blood glucose levels under control.

Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a type of diabetes that consists of high blood glucose during pregnancy and is associated with complications to both mother and child. GDM usually disappears after pregnancy but women who are affected and their children are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Research indicates that a majority of cases, up to 80% according to some studies, of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

Lack of physical activity due to restrictions on movement, the closing of gyms and parks, and all recreational or fitness-related avenues has meant that people have fallen into a more sedentary and relaxed lifestyle. Although, people have access to fitness materials through multiple channels like social media platforms, websites, and apps within the confines of their home, the lack of a structured routine that is an essential aspect of ‘normal’ life was clearly missing during the lockdown which meant that people’s attitudes towards incorporating exercise daily into their lifestyle have changed. 

Stress in itself is an important factor in chronic diseases, but, it can also lead to a situation where people respond to it with eating, known as emotional eating or stress eating. Emotional eating usually entails the consumption of unhealthy food or desserts.

 The data supports this theory, major tech and industrial hubs of the country, namely, Bengaluru, Gurugram and Pune witnessed a very significant rise in the percentage of people affected, with Pune at 23.7%, Bengaluru with 27%, and Gurugram leading with an astounding 43% rise.

While the data indicates an alarming trend it also very clearly highlights how personal choices affect health outcomes. Diabetes is a lifestyle condition which can be prevented or managed in three ways:

  • Healthy nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Preventive Checkups

Most people stopped or avoided non-essential diagnostic tests and medical visits during the lockdown, and rightly so, however, the lockdown has made it clear that having a preventive attitude towards health is necessary. Health checkups are highly important for people who are at risk of developing diabetes; they can help in keeping track of blood sugar levels and thus help in making better choices. Even for relatively healthy people, it is important to get annual health checks done to gain an understanding of what they are doing right and where they might be going wrong to make corrections in their behaviour. 

Authored by Dr.Sonal Saxena is the Senior Vice President, Lab Operations at Healthians. She is an MBBS and MD in Pathology from AMU.

SMEStreet Healthcare Tips for Future-Ready Entrepreneurs is an initiative by SMEStreet Foundation basically to ensure a fit & healthy entrepreneur and intrapreneur for building a healthy Indian economy ahead.

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SMEStreet Edit Desk is a small group of excited and motivated journalists and editors who are committed to building MSME ecosystem through valuable information and knowledge spread.

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