They’re never too young to have it

One can understand his concern when he strongly stresses on the lack of awareness on one of the most prominent lifelong diseases amongst people in India. A meeting with Dr Shailesh Kumar, diabetologist at Apollo Clinic, reveals that a lot needs to be done in spreading awareness on diabetes.

Taking a few minutes off during a free diabetic screening camp organised by the Apollo clinic on January 7th and 8th of this month, Dr Kumar says, “I sincerely wish the government and media would take up more initiatives in spreading awareness on diabetes like the way it has done for AIDS.”

With the country already known as the diabetic capital of the world, diabetologists across the county insist with their research that there is an immediate requirement for people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Though juvenile diabetes or Type I diabetes occurs generally in children, they can also be affected with Type II as well. Among the other types of diabetes is gestational diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy. And even though the percentage of Type I diabetes across the world is limited, one has to be careful about the gradual rise of diabetes amongst children.

Making a strong point on the need of parents to play an active role in encouraging children to involve in sports activities, Dr Kumar says, “Diabetes causes remain a mystery and one must understand that it can come at any age. These days with both parents working, the child is left to adopt unhealthy lifestyle habits like having junk food, aerated drinks and watching television continuously at home rather than playing outside.”

Recollecting a few instances about his meetings with patients, he says he is amazed and shocked when people ignore essential lifestyle habits in their daily life like exercises and say “I cannot have diabetes because I have only vegetarian food” or when they mention “I cannot be diabetic as there is nobody in our family who is diabetic.”

Insisting that diabetes need not be hereditary at all, Dr Kumar says a lot of environmental factors like physical exercise, diet and stress have a major influence on diabetes mellitus. In addition, he further stresses on the role of the parent, especially the mother, to encourage a child to drink fruit juices instead of a soft drink.

As a word of caution, he mentions the warning signals to be observed by a parent to find out if a child could be diabetic. “One should watch out for weight loss, sudden increase in appetite, frequent urination, thirst or wounds that do not heal quickly. Also, we need to change the way we deal with children. On an average, an Indian family believes in preparing a meal that the child likes. Instead the family should focus on healthy foods, something which the child should be actually having, giving the least preference to junk food.”

Even though treatments for Type I diabetes remain to be daily insulin injections, Dr Kumar is hopeful that somewhere in the future oral insulin and more methods will be introduced to make the treatments less cumbersome.

He finally winds up with the statement, “Even a drop of blood is sufficient to know if your child is diabetic”. As is believed by the medical fraternity, diabetes is at best prevented than treated.

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