diabetesThis week marks National Diabetes Week in the UK. An annual event, National Diabetes Week is aimed at raising awareness of diabetes, its causes and the funds being raised to help sufferers.

Recent figures released by Diabetes UK have shown that the amount of people suffering with the condition in the UK is at a record high, with 3.9 million Brits said to be now living with diabetes.

Despite the fact that the number of people with diabetes is growing fast, experts are still worried that a large proportion of the nation is still unaware of exactly what diabetes is, and how it could be prevented.

What is Diabetes?

A person suffering from diabetes has an increased amount of glucose in their blood because their body cannot use it properly. Essentially, the blood sugar levels of a diabetic person are too high. The reason for this increase in blood sugar is that the pancreas do not produce enough insulin, a hormone used to control glucose levels.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes - Type 1 and Type 2. The main difference is that with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is unable to produce any insulin at all. In the case of Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas becomes less efficient at producing insulin over time, or the body’s cells lose their ability to react to insulin. Cases of Type 2 diabetes are closely linked to lifestyle, whereas Type 1 diabetes is almost exclusively based on genetics.

Type 1 diabetes can occur in a person at any time, although it most commonly appears during childhood. Type 1 accounts for around 10% of diabetes in the UK. No cure has yet been found for the disease, but treatments are available for the regulation of blood-sugar levels and to control symptoms. Such treatment involves daily insulin doses which can be taken via an injection or an insulin pump.

Type 2 diabetes occurs primarily in adults over the age of 40. However, research has shown an increasing number of occurrences of Type 2 diabetes in childhood - a phenomenon thought to be linked to the proliferation of sugary drinks and poor diet among young people in the UK. An estimated 90% of people diagnosed with diabetes suffer from Type 2. Healthy lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise are used to treat Type 2 diabetes. However, in some cases medicine and insulin may also be required.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Recognising the symptoms of diabetes as early as possible is vital in order to prevent and limit the chances of serious long-term health problems. Symptoms include:

  • increased feelings of tiredness
  • increased levels of thirst
  • increase in the need to urinate
  • unexplained weight loss
  • itching around the genital area, or repeated instances of thrush
  • blurred vision
  • slowly healing wounds or cuts

Risk Factors - Type 2 Diabetes

In a recent article for The Guardian, Ann Robinson accounts the rapid increase in the number of Type 2 diabetes sufferers to the increasing obesity figures in the UK, noting, rather bluntly, ‘Diabetes is at a record high because we’re fatter than ever.’

A person with a high sugar, fat and carbohydrate diet has an increased chance of developing the condition. Furthermore, other risk factors include, high blood pressure, high alcohol intake and smoking. If a person leads a particularly stressful lifestyle this can also increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. However, research has also shown that the development of Type 2 diabetes may also be linked to genetics. Thus, if a family member has the condition you may be at an increased risk.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

By making certain lifestyle choices you could reduce your chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes. It is especially important to consider such choices if you are at an increased risk of developing the condition, for example if you have a family history, or are overweight. Precautionary changes include:

  • Being more active through increased physical activity
  • Eat more foods which are high in fibre
  • Opt for more slowly absorbed carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables
  • Cut down on fat, especially saturated fat.
  • Get your 5 a day
  • Eat more fish – ensuring they are not battered or fried
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods
  • Reduce your intake of salt
  • Control portion sizes
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Don’t smoke

If you are concerned that you may be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, it is important that you consult your GP or pharmacist for advice. If you have specific concerns relating to weight issues or a smoking addiction, treatments are available to help you manage the condition and reduce the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. For more information on weight control medication or smoking cessation treatments, visit our landing pages or call us on 0208 123 0703. you can also email us directly at help@expresspharmacy.co.uk or try our LiveChat facility.