Pune, 8 April 2021: Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the glucose or blood sugar level in the body is too high. Glucose in the blood, which reaches cells, is the main source of energy and comes from the food you eat.
Punekar News Reporter Nishat Aftabi interacts with Nupur Lalvani, the founder of diabetes awareness and advocacy NGO Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation. As per Nupur, we should be well aware and not scared of the condition. She is confident that she would be able to spread awareness among people regarding diabetes in her own ways. Let’s hear from her.
Q. What is your take on diabetes? Many people become too cautious and they stop eating sweets. Is it too dangerous to be too cautious?
A. It is important to be cautious, however, there is no need to be scared. Unfortunately, India has one of the highest diabetic populations in the world! According to the International Diabetes Federation, over 77 million people in India live with different types of diabetes out of the 463 million diabetics in the world. It is important to know that there are different types of diabetes – type 2 diabetes is the most common and preventable type and is considered to be linked to lifestyle and family history. Depending on the specific case history, it can be treated with oral medication and/or insulin injections. For preventing type 2 diabetes, it is advised to have a healthy lifestyle, eat healthy, exercise, maintain body weight, etc. As they say, ‘prevention is better than cure.’ Hence, it is sensible to be cautious, lead a healthy lifestyle, and get tested for diabetes annually.
Type 1 diabetes (less common than type 2 diabetes) is an autoimmune condition, which cannot be prevented or reversed. A person living with it must take insulin injections and test their blood sugar on a glucometer several times a day for the rest of their lives since their body does not produce insulin, a vital hormone essential to the human body. There are other types of diabetes as well, for example, gestational pregnancy, LADA, MODY, etc., which are less common.
Q. Is educating people regarding diabetes enough to make them understand the facts?
A. I believe, diabetes awareness and education is the first step in making people aware of the associated risks and potential complications of uncontrolled diabetes. Knowledge is power and once people know, they can take steps to lead a healthy life. This is why our NGO Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation works towards diabetes awareness and advocacy across India. Our purpose is to educate, engage, empower and create a safe space for people with diabetes as well as their families.
Q. Is there any reason to get scared about the condition as people make mistakes when they are worried?
A. There is no reason to be scared or to panic. However, basic awareness about diabetes and leading a healthy lifestyle is essential.
Q. Why did you start the NGO? How did the idea come to you?
A. I have been living with type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years since I was diagnosed as a child. I realise the importance of being part of a supportive diabetes community and support group every day living with this condition. I’m also a certified diabetes educator and certified insulin pump trainer. Often people with diabetes and their families are worried and cautious to let them live a normal life and exercise, travel, pick a career of their choice, etc and that creates fear and pressure in their minds. People with diabetes can do anything they set their heart at if they manage their diabetes well.
I run marathons and ultra-marathons. I have completed the 100km Oxfam Trail walker as part of India’s first type 1 diabetic team. I also enjoy MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and am a strong advocate for women’s health and empowerment. I was lucky to find like-minded people who shared my passion and that’s how the NGO came into reality. We are a community of people with diabetes and for people with diabetes.
Q. What kind of care do people receive from the NGO?
A. People can visit our website & sign-up as a community member. They can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter by searching for Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation and join our Facebook group ‘Diabetes Support Network – India’ to be a part of India’s largest diabetes community.
Our NGO conducts free online workshops related to diabetes every Sunday at 5 pm on the Blue Circle workshops platform. Our social media platforms are updated with information about upcoming workshops, how to register, and other information on diabetes.
People can also download the free application we have created called ‘Blue Circle Diabetes’, available on both Android and iOS phone systems. The application can be used to access the Buddy Project Helpline, as well as log in all your blood sugars, food, insulin, exercise, generate reports, and a lot of other features.
We also run free diabetes and mental health-related helpline called the Buddy Project helpline. We also run Project Gaia to empower women living with diabetes.
In a few cities, including Pune, we used to have monthly physical meet-ups, 5km runs, etc., These were free and open to all. We hope to resume these post-COVID-19. We also conduct diabetes awareness programmes in government and private schools and at corporates too. If you would like us to organize a session at your school or office, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What made you start the Buddy Project helpline?
A. We started receiving a lot of anxious calls last year, so the Buddy Project helpline was born out of the COVID-19 situation in May 2020. Studies show that people with diabetes are more prone to depression and other mental health issues.
Living with a chronic physical condition is extremely taxing mentally for the person with diabetes as well as the caregivers, family, friends, etc.
To add to this, the uncertainty and fear of COVID-19 had created a very stressful situation. The Buddy Project helpline is a community-led, psychosocial, app-based, multilingual helpline for diabetes and mental health, run by trained volunteers living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Our volunteers are trained by the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy, Indian Law Society, Pune, and Chellaram Diabetes Institute, Pune, in providing basic psychosocial and diabetes support and are fluent in English, Hindi, Dutch, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil, and Punjabi. You can know more about it at https://www.bluecircle.foundation/buddies
Q. Will, you suggest any kind of diet?
A. Any diet which keeps you happy, healthy, is sustainable, and helps you maintain your blood sugars is a good diet. It is important to be in touch with your health care team. I eat a low-carb diet and that works for me.
Q. What tips would you like to share, so that people take care of themselves! And especially now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. People with diabetes are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19. In general, people with diabetes are more likely to have more severe symptoms and complications when infected with any virus. The risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if diabetes is well-managed. Having heart disease or other complications in addition to diabetes could worsen the chance of getting critically ill from COVID-19, just like other viral infections. More than one condition makes it harder to fight the infection. Apart from basic precautions such as getting vaccinated, following social distancing, washing hands, masking, etc, for people with diabetes, it is also essential to aim for a normal blood sugar level to avoid any negative outcomes.
People need to be careful. By being positive, people not only can surpass hurdles but also gain the strength to face any kind of challenge in life. Diabetes is not a thing to be scared of but to be taken care of. So that diabetic people can go through this harsh pandemic and their lives with a smile on their faces. As the Arabian proverb goes, “He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.”
How to use the Buddy Project helpline:
Open the Blue Circle Diabetes application >
> Click on Buddy Project > Schedule tab > Pick a buddy of your choice
> Schedule a call. (Once you schedule, you’ll see it under the ‘Meetings’ tab.
> Ten minutes before the call, you’ll receive a notification/reminder on the application.
> To join the call, open the app, go to Buddy Project, and under the ‘Meetings’ tab, press the ‘Join’ button (The video is turned off by default, you switch on as per your preference.)
> Please note that the phone will not ring automatically, you will need to join the call by pressing the ‘Join’ button.
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