World Diabetes Day: "Lifestyle Changes Lead To Better Disease Management"

On World Diabetes Day, endocrinologist Dr S Srikanta talks about the co-relation between diet, weight gain and blood glucose levels. He also prescribes a to-do list to manage the disease better.

By Monali Bordoloi

World Diabetes Day: "Lifestyle Changes Lead To Better Disease Management"

Dr S Srikanta, an eminent endocrinologist from Bengaluru, wants you to be mindful of what you eat and suggests that people listen to music instead of watching TV while, having meals! A veteran in diabetes management, Dr Srikanta believes in living life holistically and advocates the integration of science and spirituality into health care.

In an interview with ParentCircle, Dr Srikanta touches upon subjects like the appropriate diet for diabetics and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to manage the disease. He also talks about diabetes prevention and management.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

What is the importance of diet in diabetes?

If we eat healthily, our weight also stays within a healthy range. Diet plays an important role, more so for a diabetic as healthy eating can help in weight loss or in maintaining a healthy weight. This also improves blood glucose levels and helps reduce the risks of developing further complications affecting the heart, kidneys or the eyes. Following a healthy, balanced diet will help a diabetic to control blood glucose levels, triglycerides, (blood fats) and blood pressure too. This can help lower risk of diabetes complications, including heart disease and stroke.

Why is diabetes on the rise in India?

The most likely reason for this is lifestyle change because of rapid urbanisation. Obesity (especially the kind in which there is weight gain around the waist), a diet rich in fats and refined foods, lack of exercise and increased levels of stress are the factors responsible for the alarming increase in incidence. The impact of lifestyle on the rise of the disease can be gauged from the fact that the prevalence of diabetes among the rural population is still far lower than in urban India.

What increases the risk of diabetes in children?

Diabetes is rising around the world, and children are at an increased risk of developing the disease. When a child has diabetes, over time, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves — causing chronic problems and worse, early death.

When the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops making enough insulin, the condition is known as Type II diabetes. Being overweight is to be at a higher risk of developing Type II diabetes. Overweight children are more at risk of insulin resistance. 

What is the connection between junk food and juvenile diabetes?

Sugar, saturated and trans fats are not good for health and junk foods are known to contain large amounts of all these. These foods are digested quickly, which in turn can spike blood sugar levels and increase bad cholesterol levels. Type II diabetes is often associated with obesity and can result from overindulgence in junk food. As urban children are increasingly becoming obese, they are at a greater risk of developing juvenile diabetes.

Note that sugar doesn't cause diabetes directly. But, if your diet regularly includes sugar or sugary foods and juices, it will make you put on weight. Weight gain can make a person's chance of developing diabetes greater.

Can exercise make a difference in regulating diabetes?

Yes. Muscles can use glucose without insulin when you exercise. Hence, being active and exercising regularly, can help in managing diabetes. The biggest benefit for a physically fit person is that it is easier then to control the blood sugar levels. Thus, the glucose in the bloodstream is also in control.

Of course, the effect that physical activity has on blood glucose levels will vary depending on how the duration of exercise and other factors. Keep in mind that being physically active can lower the blood glucose for up to 24 hours or more after a workout — by making the body more sensitive to insulin.

What are the risks of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy?

Several factors can lead to an increased risk of gestational diabetes in pregnant women. This includes pre-diabetes (blood sugar that's elevated, but not high enough to be called diabetes) and high blood pressure.

During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that can lead to a build-up of glucose in the blood. Insulin produced by the pancreas usually handle the extra glucose in the blood. However, if it does not produce enough insulin, blood sugar levels will rise and can cause gestational diabetes.

Are there preventive measures for Type II diabetes in young adults?

Young adults can lower their chances of developing Type II diabetes by understanding the risks and making changes to their lifestyle. Weight gain, high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels are common risk factors. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity are great preventive measures. 

Dr Srikanta’s list of to-dos for diabetics and those who are at risk:

  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Avoid high-fat foods like whole milk, cheese, and fried foods.
  • Keep a tab on your daily calorie intake to maintain a healthy weight.
  • To eat mindfully, listen to music instead of watching TV — otherwise people tend to overeat.
  • If you are pre-diabetic, seek medical help on how to prevent the onset of the disease.
  • Most people are aware of the need for lifestyle changes but fail to implement it. With guidance, you can achieve the goal.
  • Limit takeaway and processed foods.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Quit smoking. You just need a strong will to kick the butt.
  • Lower blood pressure levels.
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, you can do so by following the above to-dos.
  • Have regular check-ups.

Dr S Srikanta believes that diabetes management is all about willpower and planning. Also, he stresses that with proper guidance and little tweaks to the lifestyle, a person with diabetes can lead a normal life. The doctor aims to spread awareness about the disease among the masses and hopes to provide low-cost treatment for the needy.

About him

  • An eminent endocrinologist, Dr S Sathyanarayana Srikanta is the founder and former medical director at Samatvam Endocrinology Diabetes Center and Jnana Sanjeevini Medical Center and Diabetes Hospital, Bengaluru. Now, he serves as Senior Consultant.
  • A post graduate from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, he went on to become a Fellow in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism from Duke University Medical Center, USA (1981). 
  • He was also a Fellow, Faculty and Investigator, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Joslin Diabetes Center, USA (1982). There, he was one of the youngest members of the faculty. 
  • He was a visiting Professor at the University of Minnesota, USA and Visiting Clinician at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, and University of Michigan Medical Center, USA.
  • He is currently Senior Consultant and Faculty at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS) and various other hospitals in Bengaluru.

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