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Why is Bangalore the Diabetes Capital?

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Price of development: Diabetologists say the way the city has changed does not really help diabetics.
Price of development: Diabetologists say the way the city has changed does not really help diabetics.

Deepika Arwind

Experts attribute it to long hours of work, fewer places to walk and availability of junk food

Over 40 million people in India are affected by diabetes

About 15 per cent of the adult population in Bangalore has diabetes

Bangalore: Sharanjeet Singh is 35 years old and has been working in an information technology (IT) company for the past eight years. Five years ago, he developed Type-2 diabetes, and admits that despite a family history of the disease, he did not take his weight problem seriously. “At 35, I am a chronic diabetes patient and even though I don’t get time to exercise, I comply with dietary restrictions,” says Mr. Singh.

He also adds that many of his friends who made the move with him to Bangalore eight years ago are diabetics. If they are not diabetic, they are overweight or suffer from stress-related diseases.

Do Sharanjeet Singh and his group of friends exemplify a worrying health trend among young professionals in the city? Possibly so.

Greatest increase

According to a report titled Global Prevalence of Diabetes by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in May 2004, the projections for the year 2030 show that in developing countries the number of people with diabetes will be close to 60 million in the age group of 20 to 44 years, and over 140 million in the age group of 45-64 years. It points out “the greatest absolute increase will occur in India,” where 79.4 million people will be affected by diabetes across all age groups (based solely on demographic changes).

Twenty-two years away from this projection, the Indian Diabetes Task Force, a group of 300 practising doctors from the International Diabetes Federation and the WHO, says that over 40 million people in India are affected by diabetes, a figure that is compounding by the year, sure to outstrip the projected figures by the report “Global Prevalence of Diabetes.”

In Bangalore, often been called the “diabetes capital,” no specific study about the number of people affected with diabetes has been conducted.

However, doctors like K. Suresh, Director Jain Institute of Vascular Sciences, are of the opinion that about 10 to 15 per cent of the adult population in Bangalore is affected with diabetes and the numbers are certainly on the increase as more people slip in to sedentary lifestyles.

New cases

A city-based diabetologist, who requested confidentiality, told The Hindu that in a four-week Out Patient Department schedule, she gets at least 20 cases of newly detected diabetes every week, in the age group of 25 to 30 years. “I would say that 70 per cent of them are affected by the genetic factor,” she says. The rest of the cases are those who have diabetes without any genetic history of it, thanks to their lifestyles. “They are not obviously obese, but maybe heading there,” she says, adding that in general Asians are more prone to being insulin resistance.

Many of those who come to this doctor are from IT backgrounds; but she emphasises that this is not just a problem rooted among those who work in these industries. “Among my patients are many young people who work more than 12 hours a day with no exercise. Teachers and students are part of the group,” she says.

High stress

Medha K.S (29) is a mother of a two-year-old and works at a private banking institution with no family history of diabetes. Yet, a year ago she was detected with Type-2 diabetes. “I was told it was a condition arising out of high stress and while I am constantly trying to exercise regularly and meditate, stress is inevitable with a child and a job,” says Ms. Medha.

Diabetologists and doctors also say the way the city has changed does not really help diabetes patients. “Long hours of work, waiting in traffic, fewer places to walk and the availability of junk food everywhere are reasons why diabetes and other lifestyle-related diseases are on the increase,” says Preetham Kaur, a doctor who has been treating women with diabetes for over 20 years now.

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