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A Diabetes Prevention Plan That Actually Works

posted on 6/10/2016 Facebook Facebook

There is no doubt that diabetes is a global health crisis and inevitably a costly one. Today, one in five healthcare dollars is spent on caring for some 350 million people battling diabetes across the globe. Yet, the potentially larger picture looming ahead is the prediction of the World Health Organization, that by the year 2035 about 600 million people will fall prey to this growing pandemic. While these figures may no longer surprise many amongst you, one cannot deny the fact that diabetes is indeed a major threat to the population health.
Anything that can slow the alarming rise of this disease will not just be a medical triumph but also an unbeatable moneymaker. But as scientific research is pouring into understanding the complex nature of this multifactorial condition, clinicians are focusing on advocating prevention strategies to their patients in order to curb the rising numbers. But are we doing it right?

Investing In Prevention: A Way To Look Ahead

The oldest adage in the book ‘prevention is better than cure’ sounds more convincing here than ever. Yes, medical intervention has given us tools such as glucose trackers to monitor blood sugar levels and injectable insulin pumps for controlled administration of insulin at specific intervals to keep sugar levels in check. However, these strategies come into the picture after you’re already a part of the diabetes herd. What needs to be looked at is scaling up on prevention, if we want to beat diabetes at a mass level.

We know that the onset of diabetes can be delayed—sometimes even prevented—with appropriate diet, exercise and other lifestyle interventions, although the efforts made by doctors and other health agencies show only marginal progress in this area. How many among people actually go on to follow the advice of their doctors—waking up at five in the morning to do some yoga or eat more broccoli instead of fries? So, the question still remains, is there a way to dodge the diabetes bullet altogether? Looks like there is—based on the very fundamental principle of prevention rather than treatment.

The Genetic Way To Diabetes Prevention

Marked by a complex mix of genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors, diabetes is known to run in families. Scientists have long predicted that if either of the parents suffers from type II diabetes, the chances of the offspring suffering from it is increased about five fold. Much research invested in the last few years have been able to pinpoint the genetic nature of this disease, especially looking at the genes which either increase or decrease its risk. 

“Clinical genomics is a comparatively new field which helps to look at the whole human genome and chart even minute differences in the DNA that could elevate the risk of a particular disease”, says Dr Swapnil Jaiswal, head of medical affairs at Positive Bioscience. Employing the very principles of genetic testing, we can now easily spot variations in more than 70 genes in our genome which are known to increase the risk of diabetes. “Knowing your risk can help you and your physician to work out prevention strategies targeted specific to your genetic profile such as devising effective diet plans, medicine recommendations and even personalize your exercise regime”, Dr Jaiswal adds. 

But, this testing is new and the population is still unaware of its uses. A once in a life time test which can not only keep you miles away from diabetes but also help you live a healthier life, the many benefits of genetic testing needs to be advocated to the public. However, the process of bringing diabetes prevention to scale with the use of genetic testing will have to address some key components. First and foremost, creating awareness about the availability of such test in the masses and educating them about preventive medicine. Second, training doctors and physicians on the importance of prescribing these tests and reading reports to help patients effectively. And lastly, given the increasing incidence of the disease, how do we make these tests affordable and accessible to each and every member of the population. 

The foundation for scaling up diabetes prevention based on genomics is based on the fact that we can harness the power of our own genes to guide our health and protect from nasty diseases. Diabetes prevention is a job of increasing importance and can no longer be overlooked. With an efficient strategy guided by multi-sector collaboration, it can become an important and lasting keystone of a new health care paradigm that prioritizes prevention of chronic diseases over managing them. 

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