Do you feel thirsty all the time? Have low energy levels or are always busting to go to the toilet? These are just a few symptoms of type 2 diabetes and as many as 850,000 people in the UK may have the disease without actually knowing it. Diabetes is the condition which affects the body’s capability to convert sugar into energy. It allows sugar levels to build up in the blood which can lead to heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or it resists the effects of it. At present, around 2.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but the worrying trend is that more and more children are now getting the disease. Once known as a middle aged ailment, now children as young as 5 are appearing with symptoms. Type 2 diabetes is linked to an unhealthy lifestyle of being overweight, not getting enough exercise and eating the wrong kind of foods; those that are overly processed and full of sugar and fat.
Here are the main risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes:
- Being over 40 years old and white.
- Or over 25 years old and from an Asian or black background.
- Having a close relative who is diabetic.
- Not being active enough.
- You’re overweight or if your waist is 31.5 inches or over for women; 35 inches or over for Asian men and 37 inches or over for white and black men.
- You have high blood pressure or you’ve had a heart attack or a stroke.
- You’re a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome and you are overweight.
- You’ve been told you have impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glycaemia.
- If you’re a woman and you’ve had gestational diabetes.
- You have severe mental health problems.
The more risk factors that apply to you, the greater your risk of having diabetes.
Some things that do not cause diabetes
- Eating sweets and sugar does not cause diabetes,but eating a lot of sugary and fatty foods can lead to being overweight.
- You cannot catch diabetes, like a cold.
- Stress does not cause diabetes, although it may make the symptoms worse in people who already have the condition.
- An accident or an illness will not cause diabetes but may reveal diabetes if it is already there.
You can test yourself to see if you are at risk by visiting this page http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Riskscore/.
The good news is that you can turn back the clock by making some lifestyle changes. Here’s what you can do:
- Make sure you are more active; try walking at least 20 minutes each day, this could mean getting off the bus one stop earlier or joining in with your children’s playtime activities.
- Make sure you eat three regular meals a day to help control glucose levels.
- Eat carbohydrates with a low GI index such as porridge oats, beans, bananas, whole-wheat and pasta.
- Choose foods with no added salt or sugar and stay away from overly processed foods. Try making meals from scratch so you know exactly what is in them.
- Flavour foods with spices and herbs, rather than adding extra salt.
- Drink plenty of water.
For more tips and advice about type 2 diabetes, visit the Diabetes UK website.