How big is the problem of diabetes?
In recent surveys, the prevalence of DM in India has increased to about 10%. But this is average for the country, and the situation in South India is very bad. Its prevalence in Tamil Nadu is close to 13%. And a city like Chennai, it is about 25%. That means 1 in 4 people in Chennai has diabetes! Less than half are diagnosed. And worse, only 1/3 of diabetics are treated, and of those who are treated, only 1/3 control their sugar well enough!
Why do so many people have Diabetes?
The increase in diabetes is due to rapid urbanization, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, obesity, tobacco use and increase in life expectancy. All this leads to ‘insulin resistance’, which in simple terms is the body’s inability to manage blood sugar.
How does diabetes affect your body?
If you have diabetes, your risk of heart disease increases. It is also called coronary disease or heart disease (CVD) and can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The prevalence of CVD is more than 20% for diabetics, which is twice as high as 11% for non-diabetics. That is, 1 in 5 diabetics has heart disease.
How does Diabetes increase your risk of heart disease?
If you have high blood sugar levels over time, your blood vessels can be damaged, which can lead to serious heart complications. This is because in diabetes your body cannot use all this sugar properly, so it sticks to your blood vessels and red blood cells. This buildup can block and damage the blood vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. This can lead to heart attack, heart failure and death. This is important to know because 2 out of 3 diabetics die of a heart attack or stroke.
So is high sugar the only problem?
No. Not everything is due to blood sugar. Blood vessels can also be damaged by high blood pressure and high cholesterol (fat in the blood). Both these conditions are also on the rise in India, contributing to heart disease. It is therefore important that if you are being treated for diabetes, your cholesterol and high blood pressure should be monitored and treated as necessary.
How does diabetes affect the treatment of heart disease?
Diabetes affects the blood vessels in many places. This makes it a more serious and complex disease. Many people get silent heart attacks even before they come to us. It can also affect their heart function. Medicines and stents are usually not a good option in this case. In this situation, many patients require heart surgery. Recent studies suggest that more than 50% of patients undergoing heart surgery in India suffer from diabetes. In addition, patients with uncontrolled diabetes suffer worse treatment outcomes, including an increased risk of infection.
How do I stay healthy and avoid heart surgery?
- Know your diabetes ABCs – A – A1C, B – Blood pressure and C – Cholesterol (blood fats) are measured at least once a year. Be sure to seek support and advice from your doctor to keep them within your target range.
- To quit smoking
- Be physically active. Exercise regularly.
- If you are overweight or obese, get help for weight loss. Even a small loss makes a real difference to your heart and diabetes.
- Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Keeping your target HbA1c level as close as possible helps protect your blood vessels and in turn the heart. Even a slightly elevated level of blood sugar over time puts you at greater risk.
So if you want to avoid heart surgery, you need to keep your diabetes under control.