April 7 was World Health Day and this year’s theme was ‘Beating Diabetes’ with a lot of discussion on factors and preventive measures in India. Diabetes is one disease that cannot be ignored. It can have a cascading effect on the rest of your vitals. But one of the misconceptions about it is that it can only happen to the elderly or those who eat too much sugar. It can, in fact, occur in any age group.

That’s the focus of many organisations including the state Health Departments. In Kerala, a District Medical Officer RL Sarirtha said, “We need to put in place a preventive mechanism, by covering not only young adults but also young children.”

Secretary of the Calicut Diabetes Forum Dr SK Sureshkumar added that about 60 to 70 percent of people who were in the 40-59 age group in developing countries are diabetic. “A more distressing factor is that 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the diabetics are in the 20-39 age group. This has to be prevented for a whole range of health issues that can crop up in these persons as they age, especially with uncontrolled diabetes,” he added.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes, along with sedentary lifestyle and bad diet. Scientists now believe that by 2025, one-fifth of the world will be obese and thus directly in the cross-hairs of diabetes. This could have disastrous consequences for generations of humans to come. Thus the very cause of diabetes should be tackled at an early stage especially during childhood.

The number of adults living with diabetes has nearly quadrupled to 422 million over 35 years, the WHO warned on World Health Day. Saritha added that effective control starts with children and some diabetes prevention or intervention program led by fitness activities. “I would say that it should begin at a younger age – the pre-school stage. We see a lot of unhealthy food being provided to pre-school children, which carries the risk of early onset of diabetes.”

In another report, Dr Anirban Chakraborty, consultant physician and diabetologist, said, “Diet, weight control and exercise can help in effective diabetes management. Indians should ideally maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 23.The waist circumference is another crucial index.Indian males should have a waist circumference of less than 35 inches and for females it should be less than 31.5 inches.”

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