How Big Is Diabetes a Problem?
In the latest studies, the prevalence of DM in India has risen to about 10%. But that’s an average for the country, and South India is much worse off. The prevalence is close to 13% in Tamil Nadu. And in cities like Chennai, it’s almost 25%. That means 1 in 4 Chennai residents are diabetic, Less than half of them are diagnosed. And to make matters worse, only a 1/3ed of patients with diabetes are treated, and of those treated only 1/3ed of them have their sugars well under control!
Why do so many people have diabetes?
The increase in diabetes is due to rapid urbanization, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, obesity, tobacco use and increasing life expectancy. These all lead to “insulin resistance,” which in simple terms is the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar levels.
How Does Diabetes Affect Your Body?
If you have diabetes, your risk of heart disease increases. This is also called cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD) and can cause heart attacks and strokes. The prevalence of CVD is over 20% for diabetics, which is double that of 11% for non-diabetics. That means 1 in 5 diabetics has cardiovascular disease.
How Does Diabetes Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease?
Having high blood sugar levels over time can damage your blood vessels, leading to serious heart complications. This is because in diabetes, your body can’t use all of this sugar properly, so more of it sticks to the blood vessels and red blood cells. This buildup can block and also damage the vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. This can cause heart attack, heart failure, and death. This is important to know since 2 out of 3 people with diabetes die from a heart attack or stroke.
So are high sugars the only problem?
No. It’s not just the blood sugars. Blood vessels are also damaged by high blood pressure and high cholesterol (blood fats). These two conditions have also been growing rapidly in India and have contributed to heart disease. So it is important if you are being treated for diabetes that your cholesterol and high blood pressure are checked and treated if necessary.
How does diabetes affect heart disease treatment?
Diabetes affects blood vessels in several places. This makes it a more serious and complex disease. Many have had silent heart attacks even before they came to see us. This may also have affected their heart function. Medications and stents are usually not good options in these cases. Many of these patients will therefore have to undergo heart surgery. Recent studies have shown this more than 50% of patients undergoing heart surgery in India have diabetes. In addition, uncontrolled diabetic patients suffer from worse treatment outcomes, including an increased risk of infection.
How do I stay healthy and avoid heart surgery?
- Do you know ABC of diabetes , A – A1c, B Blood pressure and c Cholesterol (Blood fats) is measured at least once a year. Get support and advice from your doctor to keep them within your target range.
- Install smoking cessation.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Be physically active. Do some exercise regularly.
- If you are overweight or obese, get support to lose some weight. Losing even a little bit makes a big difference to your heart and your diabetes.
- Take your medicine as prescribed.
By staying as close to your target HbA1c level as possible, you can protect your blood vessels and therefore the heart. Even slightly elevated blood sugar can put you more at risk over time.
So if you want to avoid heart surgery, you need to keep your diabetes well under control.
Dr. Nikhil Pollo Jaik Theckumparampil
Consultant – Minimally Invasive and Robotic Cardiac Surgery
Apollo Special Hospital, Vanagaram, Chennai