November 14 once used to be, in India, at least, Children's Day. No longer so. Diabetologists have usurped the day now known globally as World Diabetes Day. And perhaps, rightly so, as projections emerging with regard to the growing number of diabetics in the nation are enough to stop you in your tracks.

As World Diabetes Day is nigh upon us, here is yet another study to underline the enormity of the problem. The results of the research indicate that about 19 per cent of the study population in the State suffers from the twin conditions of diabetes and hypertension; while about 40 per cent surveyed had diabetes, and another 40 per cent suffered from hypertension only.

It was conducted by Sanofi, provider of health care therapeutics, including pharmaceutics.

The SITE (Screening India's Twin Epidemic) study was conducted in eight States – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, New Delhi, West Bengal, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu, close to 2000 patients from Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai were studied.

One of SITE's co-ordinators for the State, Vijay Viswanathan, says, “The data reveals that diabetes and hypertension are indeed becoming a twin epidemic in the State. Furthermore, 9 per cent were newly diagnosed cases of diabetes. Shockingly, even amongst the diabetics undergoing treatment, 71 per cent were ‘uncontrolled' thereby emphasising the need not only for regular testing but also for greater awareness about the correct treatment regime.”

Talking about the hypertension aspect, another SITE co-ordinator N. Sivakadaksham adds, “The Sanofi SITE Tamil Nadu study shows that of the patients who were hypertensive, 84 per cent did not have their hypertension under control. The data further reveals that 32 per cent of the hypertensive patients have albumin in the urine. 23 per cent were newly diagnosed.”

Diabetologists once again emphasise the concept of bringing in lifestyle modifications to prevent non-communicable diseases and/or complications. V. Mohan, chairman, Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialties Centre, said Diabetes Prevention

Studies in the US and Finland have shown that with lifestyle moderations, about 58 per cent of persons with pre-diabetes stop their progression into diabetes. The Indian equivalent is about 30 per cent.

There is no doubt that this intervention is most effective. A minimum of 30 minutes exercise per day, preferably going up to one hour, cutting down on high calorific white rice (for the majority of the South Indian population), substituting it with brown rice or adding a lot of pulses and legumes, avoiding fatty foods, and cutting down on at least 5 per cent of body weight have shown significant results, he says.

R.Karunanidhi, diabetologist, Jain Diabetes Centre, Mylapore, says that diabetes should also be made ‘notifiable', as it is as much a social and economic problem as it is a medical issue.

One key way to bring in awareness is to make calorie notification mandatory on all food stuffs sold.

This strategy introduced by New York Mayor Bloomberg had a great impact on weight reduction in the specific population group in the US, he says. “All our scientific research must be translated into community action, for unless the community steps in, this situation is not likely to be controlled.”