Wasim Akram is a famous cricketer who leads an active despite being diabetic. His experience continues to be an inspiration to all, diabetics as well as non-diabetics.
You were diagnosed with diabetes at 31—the peak of your career. What was your initial reaction?
I was low, really down. I was stressed. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. Normally, it was after 50 that people get diabetes. I was an active person. I kept asking God – why me? It took me six weeks to get out of it.
Considering you were a sports person and led an active life always, what, according to you, were the factors that resulted in your diabetes?
It can happen to anyone, but in the subcontinent people are not aware of its implications. When they are diagnosed with diabetes they think their life is over. This is a feature of the subcontinent. We lack awareness. Our lifestyle, our eating habits all lead to it. Government campaigns to spread awareness are missing. Factors leading to it could be anything, but the awareness — that with a controlled and a disciplined lifestyle one can lead a normal life — is not there.
It appears that just keeping your weight in control is not a complete insurance against diabetes. There are psychological/physiological factors also at play, which could put you at risk. What is your opinion?
Today, stressful living is one of the chief causes of diabetes. The other contributory factor is our lifestyle where physical activity is replaced by motorcars, computers and TVs.
According to the World Health Organization, India is the diabetes capital of the world. Why do you think diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions in India?
The reasons are the same all over the subcontinent. Our cultures and lifestyles are similar.
How is the situation in Pakistan? Is it as grim as in India?
In our part of the world, women contract diabetes at an early age and they keep quiet about it in the fear that no one will marry them. This can also be attributed to lack of awareness.
How have you managed to keep your diabetes in control? What lifestyle changes have you introduced in your day-to-day routine after you were detected with diabetes?
When I am at home I have a fixed routine; I go to the gym, my diet is restricted and I do cardio in the evening for an hour.
Considering you are a sports icon and an international celebrity, did you have any hesitation about coming out in the open with your diabetes since people still attach some stigma to a disease?
Initially people told me to be quiet and not announce it to the world, but I felt that if I kept quiet about it I wouldn’t be able to inform people about dealing with it. Once I accepted that I had it, I could live my life actively even pursuing my cricket as before.
I wanted to help people become aware of the disease and what is available to deal with it. I took 250 wickets after I was diagnosed with diabetes. I monitor my sugar levels every second day before breakfast and after lunch. If I am stressed about something I check my sugar to see how it is affected by stress. As I am in the know about what affects my sugar levels, I am more able to control it.
You have been involved in various awareness campaigns for diabetes. What led you to be in the vanguard to combat the spread of diabetes?
I see the way people react when they are diagnosed with diabetes. If children have it, their parents are deeply disturbed and this, in turn, stresses the child who cannot then deal with it. It is essential that parents are well-informed about it so they can keep calm and support their kids. Parents must have enough knowledge to be supportive and positive at the same time.
What is the best way of preventing the onset of diabetes?
I think it can be prevented only in children. Make sure they go out and play. I worry about my own children because they are fond of pizzas and McDonald’s. It’s OK to indulge in junk once in a while, but they must be involved in physical activity. They must set aside time to play outdoors.
What kind of psychological or emotional support do diabetics seek from other family members and friends?
To have people around who will be positive influences rather than treat you as “bechara” and who will help you avoid sugar and things that you should stay away from.
You have become the role model for diabetics around the world, what advice do you have for them that will give them moral strength and help them lead a normal, healthy life?
I would like to motivate people and help them by tackling the lack of awareness. I would tell people that if you have diabetes don’t blame yourself or anybody, fight it. Be healthy and deal with it. If you are insulin-dependent, take your shots thrice a day. Make changes in your lifestyle that incorporates exercise. Instead of the car, computer and a sedentary lifestyle, make yourself active, walk, and play outdoor games. You can control your sugar levels by monitoring them as I do.
India becoming capital of kidney disease
A majority of Indian are prone to kidney disease, only a handful of them know it. Most Indians are food lovers. Indian meal which contains oil, salts and fatty food leads to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
With 41 million Indians having diabetes, every fifth diabetic in the world is an Indian [Source: Medical Journal of the Association of physicians of India].
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney diseases and are responsible for 50 to 60 per cent of new cases of kidney failure.
With such high prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure, it is estimated that each year 300,000- 400,000 people develop kidney failure or end-stage kidney disease [ESKD].
—Bharat V Shah, MD, DNB [Nephrology], Mumbai
- Keep weight, and diabetes under control.
- Lifestyle modification which should include regular exercise and fibre-rich diet.
- Check blood pressure regularly and keep it below 130/80 mm Hg.
- Avoid frequent use of pain killers.
Simple tests like urine routine and blood tests [creatinine] help in early detection of kidney disease. All alternative therapies are not always safe as they may cause kidney disease.
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