We’ve all heard of type 2 diabetes, but what exactly is it? Is there anything we can do to avoid it? How can we manage it when we have it? Let’s get some answers.
Being overweight and inactive can contribute to type 2 diabetes, a condition that causes a person’s blood glucose (sugar) level to become too high. However, it’s possible to live well with diabetes type 2, or even reverse it, with lifestyle management.
Our pancreas creates a hormone called insulin which is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood. Insulin is essential as it allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies. Diabetes is a serious condition that causes a person’s glucose level to be too high.
There’s different types of diabetes:
- type 1: the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin.
- type 2: the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or cells in the body don’t react to insulin.
- Gestational diabetes: this occurs in some pregnant women and generally disappears after birth.
What is diabetes type 2?
type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1 and is largely preventable with lifestyle choices. It used to be called adult onset diabetes but it’s increasingly diagnosed in younger people too. The condition can cause serious damage to our nerves, eyesight, mobility and more. When a person has type 2 diabetes, their body still breaks down carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose. The pancreas then responds to this by releasing insulin. Because this insulin can’t work properly, blood sugar levels keep rising. This means more insulin is released. For some people, this can exhaust the pancreas, resulting in less insulin production meaning they’re at risk of hyperglycemia (dangerously high blood sugar).
What are the symptoms?
Lack of insulin means glucose stays in the blood and isn’t used as fuel for energy, this can cause symptoms we can look out for:
- feeling excessively thirsty
- passing more urine than usual and more often – the body’s way of trying to rid itself of excess sugars
- feeling very fatigued
- weight loss
- blurred vision
- cuts or ulcers that are slow to heal
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your GP to discuss them.
How can it be prevented?
To lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, you can make positive changes to your lifestyle:
- losing weight if you’re overweight
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- stopping smoking
- consuming alcohol in moderation
- exercising regularly
How can it be managed?
Many people manage their condition by eating well, moving more and losing weight. However, depending on the response of blood glucose, medication may be needed to bring levels down. Planned weight loss can sometimes reverse type 2 diabetes that’s in its infancy.
Diabetes is the most common cause of vision loss and blindness in people of working age and is also responsible for most cases of kidney failure and lower limb amputation, other than accidents. We have the power to hold back the progression of type 2 diabetes and in some cases be able to reduce/eliminate medications. Here’s our top five tips to lower your risk of developing, or if you have it, lower the risk of progressing, type 2 diabetes:
- Enjoy a healthy diet of fresh, unprocessed foods with lots of colourful fruit and veg.
- Finding physical activities that you enjoy, that way you’re likely to keep at it.
- Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight. Even a 5% loss will make a huge difference to your health.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Government guidelines are no more than 14 units per week for both men and women.
- Make time for self care and manage your stress levels with sleep, exercise and meditation. You’ll be more likely to stick to your weight loss plan when you’re energised and feeling good.