Rates of diabetes among young people in Kashmir have increased significantly over the last few years, with cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes climbing quickly among the children and teenagers.
Diabetes means you have too much sugar in your blood. High blood sugar problems start when your body no longer makes enough of a chemical, or hormone, called insulin. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells it needs a key. Insulin is that key.
People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. You can think of it as not having a key. People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease often don’t make enough insulin. You can think of it as having a broken key. Both types of diabetes can lead to chronically high blood sugar levels. That increases the risk of diabetes complications.
In 2006, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) decided to establish the Registry of People with diabetes with Young Age at Onset (YDR) in the Country. The “Young Age at Onset” was defined as diabetes diagnosed at the age of 25 years or less.
The major objectives of YDR are to generate information on disease pattern or types of youth-onset diabetes including their geographical variations within India and estimate the burden of diabetes complications with an idea of helping promote awareness about the magnitude of problem among professionals, patients, and public health partners. SKIMS became the 11th regional collaborating center for YDR in March 2015.
Data shows that around 600 patients were registered until 2020. They reported youth-onset diabetes with 68% having type 1 diabetes, 19% having type 2 diabetes (a disease unheard of in people aged below 25 years, a decade back) and the remaining 13% have other types of diabetes.
Understandably, most of these 600 patients in the registry have to take daily injections of insulin starting from one or two injections of insulin and generally progressing to three or four injections daily.
Health experts have emphasized the need to educate the parents of diabetic children about what content of carbohydrate they have to give their children and accordingly adjust their insulin intake.
A doctor at SKIMS Soura attributed the surge in cases to stress, weight gain caused by lack of physical activity, more access to junk food, and the possibility that the coronavirus may interfere with insulin production.
Type 2 diabetes is particularly concerning among young people, he noted, as it is more challenging to manage the adult-onset disease.
Young patients “also develop complications much sooner than you’d expect,” he added. “So we really need to understand why these rates are increasing, how we can identify kids at risk, and how we can better prevent it, so we aren’t stuck with a disease that’s really difficult to treat.”
Nutritional management is an important part of life for people with diabetes.
Which diet is recommended for diabetes?
If you have type 1 diabetes, work with your doctor to identify how much insulin you may need to inject after eating certain types of food.
For example, carbohydrates can cause blood sugar levels to quickly increase in people with type 1 diabetes. You’ll need to counteract this by taking insulin, but you’ll need to know how much insulin to take. Learn more about type 1 diabetes and diet.
People with type 2 diabetes need to focus on healthy eating. Weight loss is often a part of type 2 diabetes treatment plans, so your doctor may recommend a low-calorie meal plan. This could mean reducing your consumption of animal fats and junk food.
Can diabetes be prevented?
Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented.
However, it may be possible to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes through these lifestyle changes:
• maintaining a moderate weight
• working with your doctor to develop a healthy weight-loss plan, if you have overweight
• increasing your activity levels
• eating a balanced diet and reducing your intake of sugary foods or overly processed foods
Even if you’re unable to prevent the disease itself, careful monitoring can get your blood sugar levels back to normal and prevent the development of serious complications.
(Hirra Azmat covers health at The Kashmir Monitor. Email: [email protected])