Dubai: A Pakistani expat in Dubai, who had a narrow escape from slipping into a diabetic coma recently, has shared his story to spread awareness about the need to keep blood sugar in check ahead of World Diabetes Day on November 14.
Two months ago, Muhammad Razaq, 47, was rushed to the emergency department of a private hospital after he complained of sudden dizziness and blurring of vision.
A medical investigation revealed that his blood sugar level had risen to an alarming rate of Random Blood Sugar (RBS) 730 mg/dL with Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) of 17.5 per cent.
The normal RBS range is between 80-140 mg/dL. Razaq’s was about five times the normal figures.
Razaq, who has been working in the UAE for 20 years, told Gulf News that he had been diagnosed with diabetes in late 2021 and had taken medicines for three months.
“I went to Aster Clinic in Deira to consult a doctor as I was affected by extreme fatigue, heaviness in my head, and lack of energy. It was meant to be a normal consultation. The doctor there diagnosed me with diabetes. He gave me medicines and my health improved,” the father of four recalled.
However, eventually, he stopped taking the medicines and did not monitor his blood sugar level. “It was my ignorance. I never thought it would come back to me like this. I continued with my routine life. All was well until September,” said Razaq.
One day, he experienced a sudden deterioration in health after having lunch at his accommodation. He felt sudden dimming of his vision too. His friends then rushed him to Aster Hospital, Mankhool.
Dr. Darvin V. Das, Specialist, Endocrinology and Diabetology, at the hospital said: “Razaq’s was a critical case. His blood sugar level was at 730 mg/dL at the time of admission. We quickly admitted him and commenced insulin infusion to control his blood glucose levels. He was admitted in the hospital for four days until he improved.”
Dr. Das explained that skipping medicines and not following a healthy lifestyle turned dangerous for Razaq. “He not only just skipped medicines. He did not make any changes to his diet. Also, he consumed sugary food and beverages and did not engage in any physical activity.”
An A1C above nine per cent increases the risk of long-term diabetes complications like blindness, nerve damage and kidney failure. The extremely dangerous hyperglycemia in Razaq’s case could have even led him to diabetic coma.
“Luckily, he did not collapse even after his blood sugar levels spiking by about five times the normal range,” the doctor said.
Dr Das then designed a diet chart and Razaq now follows it strictly. He said he now eats leafy vegetables and fruits more and does not consume sweets. He walks for 30 minutes in the morning and in the evening. After two months of treatment and modification in lifestyle, Razaq’s blood sugar level is now under control at 95-100 mg/dL during fasting. He recently was allowed to stop taking insulin shots—eight units twice a day–after his HbA1C also came down to less than seven per cent.
Razaq now hopes of continuing the healthy lifestyle and keeping his blood sugar level under control without medication.
Benefits of healthy lifestyle
Doctors say that healthy eating habits and a good exercise regime can help diabetic patients keep blood sugar levels under control while a healthy lifestyle can help pre-diabetics to even prevent the chronic metabolic disease that can cause problems such as damage to the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves.
Take the case of another patient, Irshad Ahmed Khan, 34, a data analyst in a company in Dubai.
Despite a healthy eating regimen, Khan put on about 8kg in a short period of time. Concerned about this sudden surge in his weight, he decided to get a health check-up while on vacation in India.
Despite a healthy eating regimen, Khan put on about 8kg in a short period of time. Concerned about this sudden surge in his weight, he decided to get a health check-up while on vacation in India. It was then that he was diagnosed with prediabetes, a condition when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
Keeping diabetes at bay
People with prediabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Taking steps to control prediabetes can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 70 per cent, according to doctors.
While many physicians back home and here recommended Khan to take medication, he said he was determined not to. Finally, he consulted Dr. Ajith Kumar, consultant endocrinologist, Medeor Hospital, Dubai, who assured him that dietary and lifestyle modifications would be enough to control his blood sugar without the use of medications.
According to Dr. Kumar, “Prediabetes also indicates a higher-than-average risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like myocardial infarction. Hence, the lipid levels should be monitored and treated, when indicated, in high-risk people.”
Dr Kumar educated Khan on the consequences of prediabetes and advised him to make dietary modifications by restricting carbohydrate and saturated fat intake and improving fiber and protein intake.
“I decided to try lifestyle modification before taking medicines. Dr Kumar gave me advice on changing my food habits and lifestyle. Everything that needs to be done from dawn to night must be carefully planned, which was challenging initially. I soon got accustomed to it and it became a routine activity,” said Khan.
Hard to sustain
Even though he had always followed a healthy diet, Khan changed his eating pattern and made time for workouts. After four months, an assessment by the doctor showed improvement in his blood sugar levels. Khan was able to bring down FBS (Fasting Blood Sugar) to 111 mg /dL from 116.6 mg/dL and lost around 7kg.
Later, when Khan went to again India for a vacation, he could not stick to his modified lifestyle and diet plan for a while. Once again, his FBS increased to 120 mg. With the advice from Dr Kumar, he resumed his exercise and diet plan, which helped him bring down his FBS to 110mg.
The lifestyle changes needed to achieve improvement in prediabetes are often challenging to sustain. According to Dr Kumar, repeated failure should prompt the patient and doctor to consider drug therapy.
“Khan is a perfect example of how dietary and lifestyle modifications can help you manage diabetes. If you have the willpower, you can effectively prevent type 2 diabetes and manage prediabetes.
He added that screening for type 2 diabetes should begin at age 35 for the general population. “Those with higher risk, including family history, should consider earlier screening. Sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes even in those who eat healthily like Khan,” added Dr. Kumar.
In view of the World Diabetes Day, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) is spreading awareness among the UAE residents. Almost one in five adults in the UAE have diabetes with around 19 per cent of the population suffering from the chronic illness. The UAE is ranked 10th highest in the world for diabetes prevalence and the number of people with diabetes is expected to double to 2.2 million by 2040.
In a social media campaign, MoHAP stated: “Protecting yourself from diabetes complications starts with early diagnosis, taking medication, and abiding by the diabetes treatment.”
The ministry highlighted that regular check-up is extremely important.
“Regular checkups and administration of medication protect you from heart attack, brain stroke, kidney failure, loss of eyesight and amputation of the lower extremity,” the ministry highlighted. MoHAP also urged residents to get to know six telltale signs to get checked for diabetes.
They include unexplained weightloss, slow wound healing, numbness or tingling in the extremity, unexplained fatigue, blurry vision and excessive thirst.