Diabetes: A non-sugar coated tale

When introduced to our fellow Rotarians at the weekly Tuesday meeting, Dr. Nadeem Rais was reacquainted with one of his own teachings – “If you are ever invited somewhere, then you must go if you are earning, learning, or having fun.”

Dr. Rais is one of the leading diabetologists in Mumbai and his independent practice is credited with having treated over 100,000 patients in the last 33 years. He was also appraised as The Master Clinician in Diabetes at the ENDO 2012 (Houston) and 2013 (San Francisco). Last week, he took to the dais to discuss the lesser-known aspects of diabetes, while repeatedly emphasising the importance of mind over matter in not just one’s emotional and mental life, but also in the treatment and reversal of a physical ailment such as diabetes.

Diabetes can be attributed to food intake, inactivity, stress, infection, and drugs. Dr. Rais quoted a Scandinavian study that suggested that low stress resilience, the art of bouncing back from difficulties, often contributes to the development of diabetes.

Two problems that Dr. Rais raised were, firstly, that 60 to 80 million people are expected to be diabetic by 2030, and the fact that our country is not yet prepared for a pandemic of this nature. Secondly, there is almost a 20-year drop in the onset of diabetes. This means that Generation Y (born after 1985) is expected to develop diabetes as early as the age of 28, as compared to Baby Boomers (born before 1950), who have been known to typically develop diabetes at the age of 57. One of the main causes for this is lack of stress resilience, which builds during an individual’s teen years.

Dr. Rais thus called out to the parents in the audience to focus on better teen years for their children. “Stress management,” he said, “is one of the most important parts of maintaining long-term health and preventing diabetes.” Overcoming difficulties comes from acceptance of the difficulty, and then giving meaning to one’s life.

After this begins the process of overcoming the fear that surrounds these difficulties, which comes through courage; “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is mastery over fear, and this mastery can be achieved through mindfulness.”

Dr. Rais then went on to talk about his success stories with patients, from different fields in life, who have managed to not only treat their diabetes, but also reverse it. These patients were from different backgrounds: doctors, housewives, old, young, under and overweight. “The most powerful tool to manage diabetes is your mind,” said Dr. Rais. By using the mind as an instrument to change one’s lifestyle, one can create a positive impact on their overall health as lifestyle management is key.

The three main aspects to keep in mind when managing one’s lifestyle are food, activity, and stress. As we all know, prevention is always better than cure. It’s definitely a much cheaper option and it is also better in the long term. Dr. Rais then stressed, again, on the importance of a good lifestyle for the prevention of diabetes.

To conclude, Dr. Rais pointed out the differences between Dr. Google and a real doctor. Dr. Google has not much to offer other than a vast bank of information. However, it is the real doctor who has the knowledge, a profound thought process, compassion, and a cool temperament.

Dr. Rais ended his talk on a humorous note, stating the importance of a real doctor: “an ass with a pile of books on his head is still an ass.” As the audience burst into laughter, it was evident that Dr. Rais had delivered something that our Rotarians could take back as a fun learning experience.