Dr Vidya Vijayan, consultant in internal medicine at Al Hilal Hospital Muharraq explains how diabetes affects women differently and why we should watch out for it.
It has been well established that diabetes is rampant across various cultures, but did you know that women can be worse affected by it than men?
“Generally, women do not pay much attention to their health,” says Dr Vidya. “They overlook the consequences of Type 2 diabetes and fail to prevent or control the disorder in the early stages.”
The condition has certain fallouts that are specific to women. “High blood sugar can cause frequently occurring vaginal or urinary tract infections. Sugar is food for bacteria to grow, making women with diabetes more susceptible to the complications arising out of such infections.” says Dr Vidya.
Gestational Diabetes is a condition that afflicts pregnant women, mainly due to the internal bodily changes. Our expert elaborates: “Pregnancy hormones cause the body’s cells to become insulin resistant (meaning that they do not absorb sugar from the blood effectively), at around 24 weeks of pregnancy. When the mother has elevated sugar levels, the baby’s body increases its insulin production. This results in a very big baby, at times over nine pounds (around 4.1 kgs), which may lead to a difficult birth. Studies say that these babies have a higher chance of becoming developing diabetes in adulthood. The mother regains normal blood sugar levels after delivery, but is advised to undertake regular screening due to the likelihood of becoming diabetic in the future.”
Polycystic Ovarian Disorder (PCOD), a syndrome afflicting many young girls, raises their chances of getting diabetes over time. Explaining the connection, Dr Vidya says: “It is a hormonal imbalance that causes [among other things] obesity, which results in insulin resistance. So, it is common for patients of PCOD to develop diabetes.”
Dr Vidya puts the high incidence of PCOD and in turn, diabetes, down to lifestyle, explaining: “A sedentary life, excessive junk food, smoking and uncontrolled weight gain are risk factors. Global statistics show that one in 11 people are have diabetes. Out of this, one in two people go undiagnosed. Nearly 450 million people worldwide have this health condition and by 2040, one in 10 people will be diabetic.”
A healthy way of life, keeping a watch on one’s weight and incorporating something as simple as 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week, can do wonders to prevent it. Dr Vidya recommends a healthy, high-fibre diet, full of natural, unprocessed foods, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. “Prevention is definitely better than cure,” she says.
Al Hilal Hospital’s CEO, Dr Sharath Chandran, encourages women to act now to stem the epidemic of diabetes. “Women are important decision makers in the household and their actions – like shopping for wholesome, healthful groceries, and making exercise and physical activity a way of life for the entire family – can bring positive results. Mothers play a significant role for a healthy community by educating their children on the repercussions of lifestyle diseases and how to keep them at bay. A small change in food habits like the amount of cooking oil used, the right choice of meat and reducing sugar and salt intake can go a long way in positively impacting the community.”