Diabetes: Do you know enough?
What is diabetes?
There is lots of talk and concern about diabetes, and rightly so. Diabetes is a growing epidemic in the UK; the number of people now diagnosed with the disease is just over four million, up from 1.4 million in 1996 or, in other words when you were dancing to Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit, by Gina G. It wasn’t that long ago, and it’s not too long to wait until 2025 when diagnosed cases are expected to increase to 5 million – that’s a lot – look around you, it’s approaching one in every thirteen people you can see. It may even be you, the good news is it doesn’t have to be and there is loads you can to do minimise your risk.
First, let’s chat about what diabetes actually is. Without getting too technical it’s where an organ near your liver called the pancreas doesn’t create enough of a hormone called insulin (Diabetes 1) and/or where your body doesn’t utilise the insulin that is being created properly (Diabetes 2). Diabetes 2 is the most common form of diabetes and usually (but not exclusively) developed in people over 40 years old. In this
article we will focus on diabetes 2.
What are the risk factors?
In a word… lifestyle (or is that two words, not sure let’s move on). Simply put the biggest risk factors for developing diabetes (other
than a small fraction being genetic factors) are being overweight, physically inactive, having high blood pressure, smoking, and a
poor diet – that’s it, and it’s not an over simplification to say if you stay generally fit and healthy your chances of developing diabetes
will be drastically reduced.
How can diabetes impact your health?
Not in a good way to be frank, symptoms may be mild in the early days and present as tiredness, sexual dysfunction, or depression
but as the disease progress the following conditions can develop:
> Heart disease
> Blindness (due to retinopathy)
> Kidney disease (nephropathy)
> Amputation (usually of the lower legs (due to nephropathy))
So all in all it’s not a great thing to have and we haven’t even gone into the acute diabetic emergencies that occur from time to time which
can result in unconsciousness and even death. Now, before we all go running off to consult the unparalleled wisdom of Dr Google
there is some good news.
The good news
There is prevention and there is a cure, well actually it’s not really a cure; let’s just say diabetes can be controlled to an extent if
you do get it, but let’s talk about prevention first. Reducing the risk of developing diabetes is often as simple is reducing the risk
factors. So let’s look at these: Ever more people in the UK are becoming overweight or obese, and in the humble opinion of the
author the greater cause of this isn’t laziness or lack of self-control, it’s the pace of life leaving little manoeuvring room. Oops, a little
bit of digressing there (there will be an article about this in a later edition). Moving on…even if you don’t have time to go to the gym
or organise a diet there are things you can do – use stairs instead of a lift and each time you use the stairs at home do it twice. Have
smaller food portions and just walk around when you can. If you can’t or won’t stop smoking (see stop smoking) then cut down or use
e-cigarettes while at work. And yes, lots of us want that pint of beer or glass of wine after work, cut down or allocate days to go alcohol
free – your evenings may not be as much fun, but neither is diabetes! True, this alone isn’t going to make you slender in a month but it will
help, and a great side effect is that taking these measures will also lower your blood pressure – another risk factor for diabetes.
If you can put a diet together or get regular exercise even better, the more you put in the more you will get out, and the more you will
lower your risk. Diabetes can be controlled with diet (but why let it get to that stage when you can be proactive) and in more advanced stages it can be controlled with medication. But, as already mentioned this isn’t a cure and just because something’s controlled it doesn’t
mean it’s not bad and a normal life can be retained.