In response to growing concerns about the health and economic threat posed by diabetes, World Diabetes Day was established in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation with support from WHO and became an official UN day in 2006. Since then, November 14 is annually marked as World Diabetes Day to raise awareness of diabetes as a global public health issue and what needs to be done, collectively and individually, for better prevention, diagnosis and management of the condition.
In the lead-up to and on 14 November, while WHO’s highlights are awaited on the challenges and solutions to scaling-up access to diabetes medicines and care, Dr Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai shares 4 simple ways to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes to protect your heart. This is because heart is the most important organ to be damaged by diabetes hence, heart disease is the cause of death in more than half of all deaths in diabetic people.
According to Dr Tilak, “There are several ways by which diabetes can affect your heart:
1. There is increased production of cholesterol and triglycerides as a result of insulin resistance in diabetes, leading to atherosclerosis and narrowing of the heart arteries.
2. Diabetes leads to increased tendency for blood clotting resulting in heart attacks.
3. Diabetes also causes impaired heart cell structure and function, leading to enlarged heart and reduced heart pumping function, a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy. This condition eventually leads to heart failure.”
Since the exact cause of diabetes is not known, simple lifestyle measures are effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes.
As per Dr Tilak, these include:
1. Being physically active – doing at least 30 to 45 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days is key.
2. Eating a healthy diet – Make a diabetes meal plan with the help of a dietitian and stick to it. Choose vegetables and fruits, whole grains which have a low glycaemic index, low-fat and low-calorie diet. Avoid sugar and sweets.
3. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial.
4. Avoiding tobacco use as smoking increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Last year, amid the lockdowns, people with diabetes paid a high price during Covid-19 pandemic. Among the number of coronavirus deaths recorded across the globe last year, people with diabetes had been the most vulnerable and paid a particularly high price courtesy the severe health risk and also disruptions to essential health services.
According to WHO, this year too, World Diabetes Day “comes at a time when the world continues to live through the Covid-19 pandemic, which has not only resulted in a high proportion of people with diabetes among hospitalized patients with severe manifestations of Covid-19 and among those who have succumbed to the virus but has also led to severe disruption of diabetes services.”
Hence, once diabetes is diagnosed, treatment should be immediately started in consultation with your doctor and the lifestyle changes mentioned above should be incorporated along with other pharmacological interventions.