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Health special: Decoding diabetes on World Diabetes Day

Living with diabetes may not be easy but it isn’t impossible either. A few lifestyle and dietary changes is all it takes to keep the disease in control. Nikshubha Garg speaks to experts who suggest simple ways to deal with it

According to the International Diabetes Federation, Diabetes Atlas sixth edition, 2013, the number of diabetics in India has grown from 50.8 million in 2010 to 65.1 million in 2013. The scary news, if the Federation’s 2012 report is to be believed, is that India will cross the 100 million mark by 2030. The picture is far from rosy. With World Diabetes Day around the corner on November 14, we take a look at what we can do to combat the disease.

fresh vegetables
Apart from a healthy mix of cereals and pulses, diabetics should have  fresh vegetables every day

Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a medical condition where the person has a high blood glucose level (blood sugar), either because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or body cells do not respond to the insulin in the body (Type 2 diabetes). According to Dr Manoj Chada, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at Hinduja Healthcare, the common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination and hunger pangs, fatigue, unusual weight gain/loss, cuts and bruises that do not heal and numbness in hand and feet. “However, any Indian above 30 years, especially with a family history of diabetes, should get himself/herself tested because most symptoms of diabetes are silent and tend to be ignored,” he adds.

Diabetics who are non-vegetarians can opt for grilled chicken at restaurants
Diabetics who are non-vegetarians can opt for grilled chicken at restaurants

Living with diabetes
Six years ago, 35-year-old Rajnish Sehgal got himself examined after a wound on the leg refused to heal for long. His blood sugar level stood at 390 (the normal range is 80-110) and he knew that life wouldn’t be the same again. Like most patients suffering from diabetes, Sehgal turned over a new leaf and began maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “I have had a sweet tooth since I was a child, and could easily consume half a kilo of sugar in a day. I stayed away from family for five years, which contributed to the high sugar level, as I would eat anything and everything at any time. The year before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I used to consume a lot of alcohol,” says Sehgal.

 A diabetic should exercise regularly to keep his or her weight in check
A diabetic should exercise regularly to keep his or her weight in check  

The father of one now ensures that he limits his intake of tea, coffee, aerated and hard drinks. He also makes it a point to eat minimal amount of potatoes, as the vegetable significantly increases the carbohydrates in the body. A normal day for him comprises sleeping for at least eight hours, eating early meals and exercising for at least one hour in the day. “Weekends are my cheat days. However, I compensate for it by keeping a check on what I eat during the week and exercise more to burn those extra calories,” says the media professional.

Maulik Kotak, 64, was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 29 and has been living with the disease for 35 years now. “When you suffer from diabetes, you need to control what you eat. I love sweets but now I make it a point to share them. It helps suppress the craving,” says the media professional.

Kotak too goes for an hour-long walk to Juhu beach every morning and eats home-cooked meals. Diabetes makes him feel hungry frequently and he snacks on chivda while at work. “I have also started including black methi (fenugreek) in my diet and that has helped improve my condition,” says Kotak, adding that every diabetic patient must go for an eye and kidney check up at regular intervals as they are at a higher risk of suffering from ailments related to the eye, kidney and nerves.

Nutrition tales
While most vegetables form an important part of a diabetic’s diet, fruits such as grapes, mango, chikoo and custard apple must be avoided as they have a higher sugar level as compared to other fruits. “While preparing meals, add extra turmeric, ajwain (carom seeds), fenugreek seeds or black sesame to the vegetables. This will help in digestion and also enhance the nutritional value of the food,” suggests nutritionist Swati Singh. “A diabetic patient must have three types of cereals and two types of pulses in a day. For instance, consume rice, wheat and jowar/bajra/ nachni/wadi along with various forms of dals,” adds Singh.

Food for thought
Singh advises that diabetics should never consume oily snacks such as samosa, ragda patties or vada pav when hungry. Instead, they should opt for puffed jowar or bajra, sprouts, roasted chana, peanuts or Bengal gram chivda, which are easy to carry and packed with nutrients. “When a patient eats outside, masalas used in restaurants are never the problem. The culprit is the oil. One must always try and visit a popular place as serving many people would mean that the chef replaces the oil frequently, whereas a chef at a less popular place would use oil kept for months,” she concludes.

Customising food according to one’s needs is possible at home but choosing what’s right to eat while one is travelling or out with friends, is a huge task. Dr Rajiv Kovil, Diabetologist suggests sticking to simple meals. “While at a restaurant, always order grilled/roasted food. For instance, eat paneer/chicken tikka instead of a paneer/chicken tikka masala. Similarly, order for steamed rice instead of biryani or pulao and stick to chapatis instead of roomali roti or naan,” he recommends.

“If you are travelling, and are unable to have a proper meal, stick to a simple dal-chawal diet or eat salads. Don’t try and experiment with food, specially when you’re travelling,” concludes Dr Manoj Chada, endocrinologist and diabetologist at Hinduja Healthcare.

Live healthy with diabetes

>> Ensure that you sleep for at least eight hours in a day
>> Avoid aerated drinks
>> Stress is a common cause for diabetes. Ensure that you surround yourself with a positive environment
>> Exercise is a must. Younger people should couple it with suryanamaskar and aerobics
>> Stick to roasted/grilled food items while travelling. For frequent hunger pangs, keep chanas, peanuts, puffed jowar/bajra, Bengal gram chiwda handy
>> Get your eyesight, kidney and heart checked regularly

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