Diabetes – Information & Advice
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
There are 3 main types of diabetes:
Type 1: With type 1, you cannot produce insulin. This is because the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce it.
Type 2: The difference with type 2 is that the insulin you do make can’t work effectively because the body cells don’t react properly, or not enough is produced. Type 2 is the most common variation.
Gestational: This can develop in some pregnant women. With the heavy demand on the body, there is a possibility it is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb the high levels of blood sugar.
Gestational diabetes normally goes away after birth. Women that have had it are more likely to develop gestational diabetes again in future pregnancies, and also type 2 diabetes in the future.
There are other, rarer types of diabetes with around 2% of people having these variations.
Diabetes UK have a great animated video explaining what diabetes is and how it occurs.
- 4.7 million people in the UK have diabetes. That’s around 1 in 15 people.
- Someone is diagnosed every two minutes
- At least 10,000 people in the UK have end stage kidney failure because of their diabetes
- More than 1,700 people have their sight seriously affected by their diabetes every year in the UK
- The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in 20 years
- Around 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. Around 8% have Type 1, and 2% have rarer types.
What Causes Diabetes?
The amount of sugar in your blood is controlled by insulin, produced by the pancreas. Insulin allows glucose in our blood to enter the cells. With type 1 diabetes however, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells, including insulin producing ones in the pancreas. Those with type 2 still produces insulin but is unable to use it as intended. This then causes a build up of glucose in the blood and starts causing symptoms like those listed below.
Possible Symptoms of Diabetes
- Feeling extremely thirsty
- Feeling very tired
- Cuts or wounds healing slowly
- Blurred vision
- Urinating frequently
- Getting infections such as thrush
- Weight loss
Many people can have type 2 diabetes for years without being diagnosed because of the fairly general, slower release of symptoms. It’s also possible to not get any symptoms at all. In fact, around 6 out of 10 people have no symptoms when they diagnosed with type 2. It is estimated that around 1 million people are currently living with the condition and do not know it.
Type 1 has the same symptoms but comes on much faster, particularly in children. It can develop over weeks, perhaps even days. The majority of people with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed as a child or young adult, but can happen any age.
Unfortunately there are not any lifestyle changes you can make to prevent type 1, whereas type 2 is often linked to being overweight and a history of high blood pressure.
Over a long period of time, high amounts of glucose in your blood will cause serious damage to certain parts of your body. The sugar levels damage the blood vessels over time meaning blood cannot travel to the parts of the body it needs to. Your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves and feet can be hugely affected by diabetes.
These complications can be prevented or delayed with the right action. Smoking, blood fats and blood pressure are large causes of the complications so the best way to prevent them is to give up smoking, enjoy a balanced diet and do regular exercise.
Living with Diabetes
If diagnosed by your GP, eating healthy, regular exercise and medication is the best form of managing your type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is more progressive so you will be given medication, usually in the form of tablets, with the dose increasing over time.
The type 1 form will require regular insulin injections for the rest of your life, usually with meals at set times during the day.
Food and Drink
With diabetes, it is important to still have a healthy, balanced diet. You can still eat from all food groups! Of course though there are still certain foods and drinks you should avoid to make life easier.
It is a good idea to avoid sugary drinks and fruit juices that will rise blood glucose levels quickly. Drink plenty of water, and sugar free soft drinks. Coffee and tea is still ok to drink but try to substitute any sugar you may normally put in. Alcohol is still possible to drink but keep it limited. If you use insulin or diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body makes, your blood glucose levels may drop too low. Make sure you eat at the same time if you do have a drink.
In regards to food, refrain from eating anything fried or foods high in saturated and trans fats. While you do not have to cut salt and sodium from your diet, intake should be reduced due to people with diabetes being more likely to have high blood pressure. This could lead to heart disease. Portion size is also very important as it will help balance your blood glucose level and weight.
It is common to create meal plans because of the importance of eating the right foods, and at similar times each day. It is important to talk to your GP or a Dietitian to make the correct adjustments to your diet.
Physical Activity & Exercise
Physical activity & exercise is very important to maintaining a lifestyle as healthy as possible when diagnosed with diabetes. Keeping active helps manage your blood glucose level, lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow and more.
With type 1, depending on the type of exercise you do, it can cause your blood glucose levels to rise (hyperglycemia) or fall (hypoglycemia). More moderate exercise over a longer period such as walking or cycling may cause a slow drop. More intense exercise such as running or playing football can cause your blood glucose levels to rise. It is important to eat carbs before, during and after your activity, and monitor your blood glucose when possible.
Talk to your GP before you start exercising with diabetes. If you take insulin, doses may need to be adjusted and managed a different way. Your GP may also recommend a ‘stress test’ prior to starting any exercise program depending on your age. This ensures your heart is in good enough shape to exercise safely.
At Medisave we have a large amount of professional and home equipment related to diabetes including:
- Bags & cases
- Insulin syringes & needles
- Glucose strips
- Blood glucose meters
- Blood pressure monitors
Find more online HERE