The Diabetes Health Crisis

Posted by Heather Doggett on 24 May 2019

Around 200,000 people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every year and 12.3 million people in the UK are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is predicted to become a huge crisis for the future health of the UK’s population.  It is a serious health condition that can have a major impact on one’s life and once at an advanced stage, diabetes can cause a host of other health complications. 

With type 2 diabetes your body still breaks down carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose (sugar).  The body will either resist the effects of insulin or it doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels – Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy, or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).  

About 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.  Exactly why this happens is unknown, although genetics and environmental factors, such as being overweight and inactive, seem to be contributing factors.

Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but today more children are being diagnosed with the disorder, probably due to the rise in childhood obesity. There’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, but losing weight, eating well and exercising can help manage the disease. If diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage your blood sugar, you may also need diabetes medications or insulin therapy.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, see your doctor as soon as possible.  If you’re aged 40 to 74 and living in England, you may be eligible for a free NHS Health Check.

A lot of people may not experience any symptoms, or they don’t notice them. Some people don’t think the symptoms are important so do not seek help and because of this, people may live with type 2 diabetes for many years before being diagnosed.  Over a long period of time, high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage your heart and blood vessels, eyes, feet and kidneys, cause hearing impairment, nerve damage, sleep apnoea and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Keeping blood sugar, blood pressure and blood fats under control will hugely help to reduce the risk of developing complications. 

Preventing type 2 diabetes

Around 3 in 5 cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed.  Healthy lifestyle choices can help –  these include: –

  • Eating healthy foods  Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fibre
  • Getting active  Aim for a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity — or 15 to 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity — on most days
  • Losing weight  If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits
  • Avoiding being sedentary for long periods  Sitting still for long periods can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Try to get up every 30 minutes and move around for at least a few minutes.
  • Stop smoking

There is no cure yet, but scientists are working on a ground-breaking weight management study to help people put their type 2 diabetes into remission – visit the diabetes UK website for more information on this –  https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/is-there-a-cure

Alison Lambert, Lead OH Advisor