The long held myth that diabetes is the disease of the rich and comfortably off in India has now been busted. The disease has now crossed all age groups and classes in India.
The disease has become so prevalent that India is now the 'diabetes capital' of the world, with the diabetic population in the country reaching a count of 35 million. Within the next 20 years, this figure is expected to more than double.
International attention has been drawn to this scenario in India. An exhaustive inquiry by the New York Times into this phenomenon has revealed that changes in lifestyles of urban and semi-urban India are mainly to blamed for the growth of the disease.
In urban areas that are modernizing at a frenetic pace Type 2 diabetes is prevalent, brought on by sedentary lifestyles.
Today the modern Indian works in air-conditioned enclosures for long periods of time, have minimal physical exertion and follow irregular eating habits.
The increase in 'junk' food, the rise in obesity as well as the genetic propensity among sub-continentals for the disease, has yielded the key ingredients for a disaster in the making.
Diabetes' chronic nature and severity of its complications can culminate in blindness, amputations of the feet or heart failure, by which one can infer that diabetes is a costly disease for the patient and his family as well as for society at large in terms of productivity losses.
Studies have revealed that a low-income family could end up spending, on an average, about 25 per cent of family income on diabetes care.
While the fast paced, high living affluent are among those getting hit by the disease, the poor too have not been spared. The association of the disease with affluence has limited policy responses to the disease.
However awareness campaigns, better health management as well as funding to manage this disease must be increased to bring about a change in these figures in India. Children are particularly vulnerable being constantly exposed to the non-stop, high-decibel advertising of junk food.
These steps must be adopted promptly to rein in this silent killer else the long-term costs to the country may prove to be devastating.