Abu Dhabi: Three months ago, Rahul Kallanmarthodi received a huge shock. Almost overnight, his weight had dropped by 12kg. This was followed by a blood sugar reading of 600 mg/dl, nearly six times the regular healthy range of 110 mg/dl.
“It was a diagnosis of diabetes, and the right wake-up call for me,” the 34-year-old management professional from India told Gulf News.
“What you eat is key to your health. I have learnt this now, and intend to stick to the lifestyle changes that have helped me bring my condition in check,” Kallanmarthodi advised.
The expat, who works a demanding job, had first noticed that things were amiss when he weighed himself.
“I work nearly 12 hours a day, and told myself I didn’t have any time for exercise. But I was shocked to see that my weight had dropped to 86kg from 98kg,” Kallanmarthodi said.
He went to a doctor - Dr Mohamed Shafeeq, internal medicine specialist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai - to figure out what was wrong.
“I hadn’t changed my diet or my daily routine. So I had no idea what it could be. Imagine my surprise when my blood sugar came in at 600mg/dl!” he said.
His doctor immediately prescribed daily insulin injections, and told Kallanmarthodi he had to be careful.
“I took the advice very seriously. I had never made time for exercise in the past, and had wolfed down two meals a day. Things had to change,” he said.
Kallanmarthodi changed his mealtimes, increasing them to six small meals distributed throughout the day. He also completely changed what he ate.
“I loved fried foods, and have always had a sweet tooth: and cannot resist chocolates. I was also very fond of my multiple cups of sugary tea and coffee,” he said.
With a lot of willpower, he was however able to completely cut out the sugar. He gave up on rice, switched to steamed vegetables and seafood, and gave up the tea and coffee for water.
“The first two days were extremely difficult. But by the time two weeks had passed, I had adjusted to it, and was determined to continue,” Kallanmarthodi said.
He also began working out every day.
“I always felt that I didn’t have time, especially with two young boys at home. But I realised I could make the time if I set my mind to it,” he said.
Within a month, Kallanmarthodi’s blood sugar was under control, and he was able to switch from insulin injections to pills.
“My doctor was extremely happy when I was able to bring my elevated blood sugar under control within the normal range in a month,” he said.
He now intends to continue with the healthy habits he has picked up.
“My family has also absorbed these healthy habits, and I hope it will protect them from diabetes going forward. For myself, I am truly loving the change. My weight has settled at a healthy 90 kilograms, and I hope to maintain it while also keeping my blood sugar in check,” Kallanmarthodi said.
“And to everyone else – whether or not you have been diagnosed with diabetes – I would say this: eat right and exercise: it is easy as you make it,” he advised.
On the centenary of the discovery of insulin, the world has once again sounded the gong on diabetes, the chronic condition that is believed to have been responsible for 6.7 million deaths this year alone.
Affecting 537 million adults around the world, which amounts to 10.5 per cent of adults, the condition is affecting more and more people at an alarming rate, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has said. In addition, a significant number of diabetics are still undiagnosed, with an additional 541 million people living with the impaired glucose tolerance that places them art high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
In the UAE alone, the latest IDF statistics put 16.4 per cent of adults aged 20 to 79 years living with the disease, numbering about 990,000 people.
Speaking on World Diabetes Day, health professionals have therefore called upon residents to be aware of their personal risk factors, and to adopt lifestyles that reduce the risk of the disease.
“Diabetes is still a preventable disease with an active lifestyle and a balanced diet,” reminded Dr Buthaina Ben Belila, head of non-communicable diseases at the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP).
“Living with a chronic disease like diabetes requires patients to change up their diet, take up physical exercise, and adhere to their medication regimen,” added Dr Omniyat Al Hajri, executive director for community health at the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC), the emirate’s authority for public health awareness.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot use the insulin produced, to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled levels of high blood sugar can severely damage the body’s systems, with patients at high risk of developing kidney and cardiovascular disease, or suffering from nerve damage and vision loss.
Abu Dhabi’s public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), has urged residents to keep abreast of their personal health.
“One in two adults [living with diabetes] remains undiagnosed. Knowing your risk is key to preventing diabetes,” the authority has said.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body stops making insulin. This is usually diagnosed in young people, and requires patients to take insulin every day. Only up to 10 per cent of all diabetics has Type 1 diabetes.
-Type 2 diabetes happens when the body cannot use insulin well enough to regulate blood sugar levels. This is the predominant form of the condition, affecting up to 95 per cent patients. Switching to a healthier, more active lifestyle is a must for people with Type 2 diabetes.
-Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have not had diabetes in the past. It requires careful management during the pregnancy, but usually goes away after the baby is born. It does, however, leave patients at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
-Prediabetes means that blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes.
Modifying diabetes risk
-Get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise every day, for a total of 150 minutes a week. This can include walking, running, cycling or swimming.
-Learn to build a healthy plate at mealtimes: only 1/4th carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta or cereal; 1/4th fruit, 1/4th protein like meat, chicken, fish, egg or legumes; 1/4th vegetables; some low-fat dairy in the form of milk and yogurt.
-If you have diabetes, know that 98 per cent of management is self-care. So monitor your blood sugar, eat a healthy diet, be active, and take your medications as prescribed.