Chances are you’ve heard of diabetes, but maybe you’re not sure of the difference between prediabetes, type 1 and type 2. Let’s look a little more closely.
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic disorders in the UK, affecting about 1 in 15 people, with numbers rising. It’s a condition that causes our blood glucose (sugar) level to be too high. Our pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose in our blood. Insulin is essential as it allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and give us energy. When we don’t produce enough insulin, or our bodies are resistant to its actions, we suffer from diabetes with our blood sugar levels rising dangerously.
Think of the way the thermostat controls your central heating. You set it at the required temperature and if the heating goes too high the thermostat will click into action to keep the temperature at the right level and regulate the heating. Without it the temperature would keep increasing. A similar thing is happening in our bodies when we don’t produce enough insulin to control our blood sugar levels.
As the level of glucose in the blood increases the body will try to get rid of it and it spills over into your urine. This increases the amount of urine that your body produces. At the same time, glucose is staying in your blood and not getting into the cells to be used as energy, so your body uses its stores of fat as an alternative energy source and you lose weight.
This combination gives rise to the symptoms of diabetes:
- Going to the toilet lots particularly during the night (excessive urine production)
- Being very thirsty
- Losing weight without trying to
type 1 diabetes
If you have type 1 diabetes your pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin. Your body still breaks down the carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose, but when the glucose enters your bloodstream, there’s no insulin to transport it to your body’s cells. Glucose builds up in your bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels. There is usually a sudden onset of symptoms when the pancreas stops producing insulin, and you will feel unwell. People with type 1 diabetes need to be treated with insulin injections.
type 2 diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes either your body doesn’t make enough insulin in the pancreas, or your insulin doesn’t work properly, and your body doesn’t recognise it. This is known as insulin resistance. Often this happens over a long period of time and you don’t notice any symptoms. It might not be picked up until you have a routine health check. type 2 diabetes can be treated by adjusting your food and lifestyle choices, and in some cases with medication as well.
Being pre-diabetic means that your blood sugars are higher than usual, but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Many people with prediabetes have no symptoms but are diagnosed due to having higher than normal blood sugars detected in blood test.
Here are some of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes:
- Being overweight or obese
- Being inactive
- Your age: over 40s are more at risk
- Your ethnicity: people of South Asian origin are up to 6 times more likely to develop type 2
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are mainly lifestyle factors. Although people over 40 are more at risk, more and more young people are being diagnosed with type 2. The exact reason for people of South Asian origin being at higher risk is still not entirely known. Experts believe it has something to do with different ways of storing fat in the body as well as diet and lifestyle.
The good news is that with our support and some healthy lifestyle changes like eating a healthy balanced diet, moving more, and losing any excess weight you can prevent the onset on type 2 diabetes.