Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Today is World Diabetes Day so we've got the low down on what diabetes is all about, what the risks are, and how to reduce your chances of getting it.
Diabetes, also known as Diabetes Melitus occurs when the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood rises and become higher than normal. Diabetes can cause a range of problems over time, but with the right support/knowledge you can keep your blood sugar level under control. The two main types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2, and a third type, called gestational diabetes, can occur during pregnancy. Find out your diabetes risk at www.diabetes.org.uk/knowyourrisk.
Diabetes is often diagnosed through a blood test and/or a urine test. Your doctor may say you have ‘pre-diabetes’ which means your blood sugar level is abnormally high, but not quite high enough to be diabetes. You should take this as a warning sign. By changing some modifiable lifestyle habits you can dramatically reduce your chance of getting type 2 diabetes and damaging your long-term health.
Things you can change to reduce your diabetes risk:
Reduce caffeine intake
Take steps to reduce stress
Cut down alcohol
Get 150 minutes of exercise each week
Ensure your diet is balanced and healthy
Type 1 diabetes
Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar levels and is made in the pancreas. It’s thought that type 1 diabetes is an immune disease and causes the body to produce antibodies that prevent the pancreas from producing insulin, therefore causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise. It’s not known what causes the immune system to behave this way, although many theorise that it is triggered by a virus. Treatment to control this is insulin injections and a healthy diet.
This type of diabetes typically develops in children and younger adults. Type 1 diabetes is not inherited but there is some genetic factor. For example a first degree relative of someone with type 1 diabetes has about a 1 in 16 chance of developing diabetes type 1.
In the UK around 1 in 300 people develop type 1 diabetes at some stage in their life.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is where your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t utilise the insulin that’s made. It’s a lifelong condition that needs to be controlled by regular check ups, diet and medicines. Risk factors of type 2 diabetes
Age (above 40)
Ethnicity – Type 2 diabetes is 2-4 more times more likely in people of South Asian descent and African Caribbean or Black African descent.
Family History- You’re 2-6 times more likely to get it if you have a brother/sister/child with diabetes.
High blood pressure
Being overweight- especially around the middle
Having had a heart attack / stroke
Diabetes and Pregnancy
Pregnancy can cause the blood sugar to rise in females who do not have diabetes. This is called gestational diabetes.
During pregnancy the body needs more insulin to control the glucose (blood sugar) levels. Therefore, females with diabetes usually need more treatments if they ae pregnant. Harm for both mum and baby can occur if the diabetes is not well controlled. It’s also more likely that women with gestational diabetes will have difficulties during birth and need a caesarean section.
Gestational diabetes is more common when women:
Are at an older age when pregnant
Are overweight (BMI above 30)
From some ethnic groups (South Asian, black Caribbean and Middle Eastern)
Have an immediate family member with diabetes
Have had a previous baby with a high birth weight (4.5kg and above)
Have had an unexplained still birth
Have had pregnancies close together
Most women with gestational diabetes recover after pregnancy however there's an increased risk of it returning in another pregnancy and in the future.
Symptoms of diabetes include:
Unexplained weight loss
Passing urine more frequently
Re-occurring yeast infections
Slow healing of cuts
Know the risks
Having diabetes also increases your risk of other conditions including:
Visual impairment & blindness
Erectile & sexual dysfunction
Loss of sensation which can lead to injury
Foot ulcers & lower limb loss
The key to good diabetes management is you
1 in 10 people with diabetes are type 1
9 out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2
Its estimated by 2025, 5 million people will have diabetes