Diabetes affects people in different ways, but it’s all related to how the body processes glucose. Glucose is the fuel that powers the brain and is produced when we eat carbohydrates. To help us absorb glucose, the pancreas makes insulin. Diabetes is caused by the body not being able to produce any insulin at all, or producing too little or the insulin may just not work properly - this results in blood glucose levels being too high which can cause serious health issues.
There are symptoms to look out for as the body reacts to the insulin failure and tries to get rid of the excess glucose:
• increased thirst
• passing urine more often
• extreme tiredness
• unexplained weight loss
• slow healing of cuts and wounds
• blurred vision
Both types of diabetes are managed by healthy diets, regular exercise, and in certain cases insulin injections, to help move the glucose around the body and allow the glucose to be absorbed into our cells and out of the blood. A healthy diet is one that is balanced and includes a variety of carbohydrate based foods, that are preferably wholegrain (i.e. brown), fruits and vegetables (this includes frozen, fresh, tinned and dried), some protein and some dairy foods (or fortified dairy alternatives), not forgetting plenty of fluids taken in throughout the day. Ideally added sugar consumption is limited, this means that any foods or drinks containing sugar as an ingredient such as biscuits, sauces, fruit squash etc - the ingredient list of a product will tell you whether it contains added sugar, it may be listed as sugar, honey, fructose syrup, dextrose, maltose, agave, molasses, glucose and that is just to name a few. The same goes for high fat and/or salt foods, there is no need to eliminate these from the diet but just be mindful of consumption and try to limit them to just a few times a week. The same goes for alcohol, include some alcohol-free days within your week.
In approx 60%* of cases type 2 diabetes could be avoided by improving the quality of the diet, following the above guidelines, and by aiming for 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, this is equivalent to 30 minutes 5 times a week, as staying active is really important for a healthy circulatory system and blood pressure as well as maintaining a healthy weight. Finding an activity that you enjoy is really important for sustainability, it doesn't have to mean you join a gym, it could mean long walks, bike rides to explore new places, finding a local sports team (netball in particular has casual clubs playing all over the UK), going for a swim whether it is in a pool, the sea or a nearby safe lake, joining a dance class, or a golf club.
The Eatwell Guide is a great guide for your overall food consumption. Ideally over the course of a day food and drink consumed would be in similar proportions to those shown in the guide.
Diabetes UK have developed a tool that can help determine your approximate risk of developing type 2 diabetes by using information such as gender, height and weight and it offers a breakdown of your result too to understand the areas that are primarily affecting your risk.
If you are concerned about being at risk of diabetes speak to your healthcare professional.
Find out more at www.diabetes.org.uk