About 75% of the corporate workforce in India is at a high risk of developing diabetes, a recent study by health-tech startup Fitterfly has revealed. Risk factors such as the prevalence of obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and poor BMI were found to be the causes for concern.
The study that revealed the prevalence of prediabetes risks in corporate India involved 2020 (1,384 men and 636 women) participants from leading corporate houses. Prediabetes is a stage where the blood sugar level is higher than normal but not in the range for a diagnosis.
About 72.9% of the participants have a body mass index (BMI) above normal (23 kg/m2), putting them in the obese or overweight category. They have a 1.9 times higher risk of prediabetes than those with a BMI less than 23 kg/m2, the study says. Among the participants, mid to senior management employees (age 40 years and above) are at 1.4-fold higher risk of prediabetes than people with age less than 40 years. “The risk of diabetes increases with age,” says Dr Ritesh Gupta, director-diabetes & endocrinology, Fortis C-DOC Hospital, New Delhi. “Hence, those aged 40 years and above need to pay special attention to their diet and exercise,” he adds.
The study also found a significant prevalence of other risk factors for diabetes/pre-diabetes. For example, 58.3% of the participants had a family history of diabetes, putting them at risk. Not just that, 46.9 % of participants performed less than the recommended level (150 minutes per week) of physical activity.
Strikingly, women lagged behind their male counterparts in exercising. “Women are often under special stress as they manage both work and home. It can make them neglect their own lifestyle with decreased focus on diet and exercise,” says Dr Gupta.
“A combination of risk factors is hazardous,” the study notes, as “31.6 % of total participants who had BMI higher than 23 kg/m2 and age greater than 40 years were at the highest risk for prediabetes”. “Being overweight or obese, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and family history are the main risk factors for diabetes,” the doctor says.
Working a corporate job involves long sitting hours, culminating in a sedentary lifestyle. “Prolonged sitting affects the health adversely and increases the risk of being overweight and developing diabetes,” says Dr Gupta. “A sedentary lifestyle might promote insulin resistance, which causes the blood sugars to increase above normal,” says Dr KS Brar, senior consultant – endocrinology and diabetology, Narayana Hospital, Gurugram and Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi. Not just that, it can also leave you feeling depressed and anxious, he adds.
Hence, it is important to punctuate sitting hours at work with short walks. Regular walking for 30 minutes daily can help in preventing diabetes, Dr Gupta says.
Work pressure, burnout, and stress have also become common, which increase the risks. “While stress is a normal part of life, and a little stress will not cause prediabetes, chronically high amounts of stress may,” says Dr Brar. “Certain stress hormones can cause insulin resistance, resulting in extremely high glucose levels in the bloodstream,” he explains. Not just that, very often, a person under stress is unable to take care of her diet and nutrition and does not exercise much. These can cause weight gain, increasing the risk for diabetes, Dr Gupta says.
Hence, stress management is crucial to not only ward off diabetes but also lead a healthy life. Socialise frequently, mingle with your coworkers, take tea breaks, or go for a walk with them. “Keeping in touch with colleagues and empathising with them is a terrific stress reliever,” Dr Brar says. “Moving around with folks you trust can undoubtedly aid you in readjusting quickly and conveniently,” he adds.
“When we factor in associated problems such as obesity, weakening of immunity and mobility, vision and other challenges, it becomes a major economic cost in the form of lost productivity,” the study states. “The employer organisations also need to spend additionally on medical reimbursements, etc,” it adds.
Hence, steps must be taken to steer clear of this disease. Although a poor lifestyle is a major contributor to diabetes, genetic predisposition, too, is a big factor. However, paying attention to one’s lifestyle can help you stay away from diabetes even if the disease runs in the family.
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Take a balanced diet with enough but not too many calories, consume good amounts of protein and fiber and appropriate amounts of carbohydrates and healthy fats, get regular exercise that can include walking, jogging, running, swimming, etc.
“Food is the cornerstone of lifestyle management to prevent diabetes,” says Dr Gupta. The reason being your blood sugar levels are affected by the amount and type of carbohydrates you ingest at each meal, explains Dr Brar.
Hence, to prevent diabetes, have a balanced diet with adequate calories based on your weight and physical activity. Indian diets are often deficient in protein and rich in carbohydrates and saturated fats. This should be reversed with a good amount of protein in the form of legumes (dal), milk products, and soybean for vegetarians, and chicken, fish and eggs for non-vegetarians.
Eat lots of fruits and green vegetables. Carbohydrates in the form of bread or rice should be taken in a moderate amount. Also, track your carbohydrate intake. Saturated fats like ghee, butter, and palm oil should be minimised, and healthy fats like mustard oil, olive oil, and rice bran oil should be taken in a limited amount.
Consume alcohol in moderation and drink plenty of water. Just like a healthy diet, exercise, too, helps in preventing diabetes, the experts say. “It increases insulin sensitivity, which means that it makes the body and cells more sensitive to the action of insulin which is a blood glucose-lowering hormone,” says Dr Gupta. “Physical activity for 30 to 45 minutes every day is recommended,” he adds.
Some exercises you should consider include walking, jogging, cycling, running, dancing, swimming, strength training, and yoga. Not only diabetes, workouts can help you with a variety of things, like lowering your blood sugar and blood pressure, increasing your energy, and improving your sleep, Dr Brar adds.