Diabetes Is A Serious Threat To The Asian Community

By Samir Sawhney @Sawhno

Diabetes is more common that you may realise. According to Diabetes UK, around 3 million people in the UK have Diabetes. A further half a million people upwards may not even know they have this illness.

Diabetes is the overproduction of glucose (energy) in the body. Insulin assists glucose to move into blood cells for use. Sufferers cannot produce enough insulin to allow the large amounts of glucose to be properly processed, thus causing a traffic jam of epic proportions and leading to health complications.

Type 1 Diabetes consists of not enough insulin being created to process glucose. Type 2 is when the insulin that is produced is not working properly - known commonly as insulin resistance.

Risks Those aged over 25 and ethnically South Asian are most at risk, compared to the wider population of 40 or over. A recent report by the Diabetes UK and South Asian Health  Foundation cited that those classed ethnically from Indian, Pakistan, or Bangladesh in the UK were '6 times more likely to have diabetes' than the indigenous ethnically white population.

So why are South Asians so much more likely to become diabetic? The core simple facts are that it is almost certainly based around education, diet, and a lack of regular exercise.

In previous generations, immigrant South Asian communities in the UK have been unable to access education on healthy eating, appropriate and affordable access to exercise programmes and support that can minimise effects post diagnosis. This has lead on to looking at the genetics argument that today's young South Asian have been born with a potential predisposition to the disease.

Live fast Today, the pressure is on to have the 'you can have it all lifestyle'. Late nights, early starts, chasing promotions at work, shopping and eating out, have all added undoubted pressure to our lives and something has got to give. The conventional attitude that South Asian's eat home cooked artery clogging rich foods, is also now being replaced by the modern person not having time to cook at all and in many cases resorting to unhealthy habits, smoking and crash dieting.

Belief systems On a deeper cultural level, as discovered by research from the South Asian Health Report, some have deeper rooted issues. Some still do not want to discuss health issues in public, or seek help from anyone outside their 'inner circle', thinking that these topics being a weakness to be discussed outside of the family home. In some extreme cases, some still believe it to be a punishment from God.

Suffer in silence Diabetes UK Scotland has been working very hard to educationally and emotionally support ethnic minority communities to overcome any stigma attached to becoming a diabetic. They have helped them to manage their lives as well as those who may be affected within close family units that are not fully prepared for the necessary lifestyle changes.

Technological advances The NHS spends around £9 Billion per year on diabetes. With that sort of investment, it is probably not a big surprise that technology companies are now looking at the health industry to see what they can achieve.

Tech giant Google have only recently released information based around a potentially pioneering contact lens. This 'Smart-Lens' would have the ability to accurately measure the glucose found in tears. The lens in theory could warn the user of health issues based on these levels.

Such alternative solutions that could be brought into daily life, if affordable and accessible to the wider population, would certainly be welcome. However as with most technological concepts, until they are found in your local supermarket or pharmacy, it is worth taking a philosophical view, and taking on the 'I choose to sensible' lifestyle choice.

Berry good Only recently, scientists in the UK believe they have found a portion of berries, rich in flavanoids, which can control insulin levels to then manage sugar levels in the body.

However once again, some self control and common sense has to be acted upon. Berries are classed as a 'super food' due to being antioxidants that can boost one's immune system. However, over consuming processed berries (not fresh) can minimise the positives, as fructose causes acidity issues in the body.

Keep it simple The healthy lifestyle attitude is the best and simplest way to maintain a happy and long life. Try and minimise your stress levels. Become more physically active. Avoid yo-yo diets, cut out tobacco and reduce your alcohol intake. Control of one's bloody sugar level is the key.

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