By NOUMAN KHALIL
Diabetes is a silent killer that damages blood vessels and attacks body organs if left uncontrolled.
Mohammad Zaki (Zacky) Ahsan of Brampton has learnt his lesson the very hard way because health was always secondary in his life.
Some 13 years back Ahsan, a 58-year-old Toronto-based real estate broker, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but he continued to smoke a pack a day and was busy working 14 hours daily. He always went against his doctor’s advice, skipped medicines, avoided exercise, and ate all sorts of unhealthy food.
Finally he ended up in William Osler Health Centre’s neurology department after suffering a sudden stoke.
“Unfortunately I was among those people who never follow doctor’s advice. Health was secondary in my life and which is why I couldn’t control my blood sugar. But then I learnt my lesson a very hard way,” Ahsan told SAF in an exclusive interview. “Now since I have survived a stroke, I believe it’s still not too late, but actually it could be too late.
“It’s like now you are sitting on a pile of dynamite and it can detonate anytime if you don’t change your lifestyle,” Ahsan quoted his doctor as saying after the stroke.
“In fact at that time I myself realized I am carrying a time bomb,” said Ahsan.
To recognize World Diabetes Day (Wednesday, Nov 14) and Diabetes Awareness Month, the Canadian Diabetes Association is going all out to educate people about healthy lifestyle and the importance of controlling the level of blood sugar.
The CDA is also hosting its 5th annual South Asian Diabetes Expo on Saturday, Nov 24, at Dreams Convention Centre (75 Hedgedale Rd) in Brampton. The event will bring together variety of professionals, many people like dietitians, nurses, doctors and patients, to talk about the disease.
According to CDA, diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in : over one million Ontarians are currently living with diabetes and the numbers are expected to rise to over 1.9 million by 2020.
Moreover, South Asians are among the populations who face a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Nothing can be done to reduce the genetic risks of developing diabetes,” said Kerry Bruder, regional director of Canadian Diabetes Association. “But type 2 can be caused by diet and activity levels that contributes to obesity. Healthier diet and active lifestyle can prevent or offset type 2 diabetes.”
Bruder said if managed properly, diabetic people can live longer and healthy lives, but if left untreated, diabetes can result in serious complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness or amputation.
“It was a very difficult and painful experience. My whole left side was down. I could not stand, walk or speak. I am thankful to my God and staff at the William Osler for their help, because of which today I am able to stand on my own feet,” said Ahsan, who migrated to Canada from Hyderabad, India, in 1975 and has now been living in Brampton for over 22 years.
“My cholesterol was high, but I was a heavy smoker… at least a pack a day. I never bothered to exercise. Despite my 18 to 20 mmol/l blood sugar level, I used to eat sweets. Half a kilogram of kalakand or gulab jamun was nothing for me,” said Ahsan. “Just imagine… I feel sorry for doing everything against my doctor’s advice.”
It is very important for everyone to take care of his/her health from day one, said Ahsan, adding diet, exercise — and of course doctor’s advice — play a big role in controlling diabetes.
He said he didn’t inherit the disease and it was the result of stress due to overwork and unhealthy living style.
Not too hard
Today Ahsan is living a different life, which he says is ‘lovely and energetic, but not too hard’.
“I wish I could have done this long ago,” said Ahsan. “For the first time in the last 35 years, I quit smoking after the stroke. Now I haven’t even touched the cigarette for almost 18 months. But I am still keeping that last pack of cigarettes as a souvenir.
“It’s a sign of my victory over smoking. It makes me strong that I have cigarettes but I am not smoking it,” said Ahsan.
Speaking to SAF, Siva Swaminathan, a Toronto-based trained professional chef, explains why South Asians are more likely to get the disease of type 2 diabetes.
Swaminathan mentioned that one of the main factors is today’s cooking style of South Asian food.
“In fact South Asian food and dishes are very healthy… take the example of beans and lentils. These dishes are not only healthy but also delicious. But it is not properly cooked as our grandma used to make.
“The problem here is that people just go to grocery stores and buy readymade, unfresh and full of salt spices. But later they again add salt in the dish, which means they are actually salting the dish twice.”
She advised that the use of salt, sugar and cooking oil should be minimized at the lowest level. She also suggested lighter cooking oil such as canola.
“Lighter cooking oil is much healthier,” said Swaminathan.
For further information about the 5th annual South Asian Diabetes Expo or to register, call 416-408-7190 or visit www.diabetes.ca/south-asian-expo.
Types of diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and adolescents, occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
The bulk of the remaining 90 per cent have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced.
Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, although increasing numbers of children in high-risk populations are being diagnosed.
The third type is gestational diabetes. It’s a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects approximately 2 to 4 per cent of all pregnancies (in the non-Aboriginal population) and involves an increased risk of developing diabetes for both mother and child.
Look at the numbers
• As per the Canadian Diabetes Association, more than nine million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes.
• 2.7 million have been diagnosed with diabetes.
• 1 million are living with diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.
• 5.4 million are living with prediabetes. Prediabetes refers to a condition that, if left unchecked, puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
By NOUMAN KHALIL