Welcome to part one of a two-part post on one of the most important health topics of our time – type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is now a health topic of major concern for both our governing political parties and our medical professionals. However, the level of activity (education and other preventative measures) required to address the impending crisis associated with type 2 diabetes is sadly lacking.

Part 1 – what is type 2 diabetes?

The amount of sugar you eat directly affects your risk of developing nearly all chronic diseases. This is because sugar causes weight gain and as soon as you are overweight the body is under pressure and problems arise. Type 2 diabetes is caused by lifestyle factors and in some cases genetics, but poor diet and lack of exercise are by far the more common cause.

While people may have a strong genetic predisposition towards type 2 diabetes, the risk is greatly increased by being overweight. It’s convenient to blame the extra stone on age and dismiss it as part of getting older, but even an excess of half a stone affects the functions of the body, causing higher risk of inflammation and disease.

I know people with type 2 diabetes and people of a similar age who don’t suffer with the disease. It is quite incredible how different their quality of life is. I use the word quality because life can be endured or enjoyed. What is happening inside your body decides how well you feel and how well you can go about your day, so much more so than the latest medications or gadgets, or even lots of money for intervention.

The bottom line is choice. When this is taken away you may feel a loss of control as your body dictates what you can and cannot do. Type 2 diabetes is complicated, not something to be taken lightly. Feeling unwell, lethargic and apathetic is only the tip of the iceberg. The complications develop gradually, but can become disabling or even life- threatening if the disease is not managed well.

If you want to prevent type 2 diabetes and the accompanying damage then it is vital that you evaluate your current dietary and exercise choices.

Damage you may face if diagnosed with type 2 diabetes includes:

• Angina,
• Heart attack,
• High blood pressure
• Stroke,
• Tingling, numbness, burning and pain in the arms, legs, hands and feet, leading to complete numbness in some cases.
• Nausea,
• Vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation caused by damage to the nerves controlling digestion.

Type 2 diabetes can also damage your kidney filter system, sometimes leading to kidney failure. It also increases the risk of blindness and other serious eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. This is because it damages the retina, known as diabetic retinopathy. Type 2 diabetes leaves you more prone to hearing problems and skin bacterial and fungal infections as well as nerve damage in the feet and poor healing of cuts and blisters.

Rates of type 2 diabetes in Ireland have grown by up to 70% in Ireland since 1980. (Study published in The Lancet). One out of two people don’t know they have the condition.

The signs to look for are:
• Increased thirst and urination
• Increased hunger
• Fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
• Sore that don’t heal
• Areas of darkened skin
• Itchy skin
• Sore feet
• Yeast infections
• Low energy
• Leg cramps

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly, even over several years, and they can be so mild that you might not even notice them. Prediabetes means blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

If you have prediabetes you should be checked for type 2 diabetes every one to two years. Early treatment can return blood glucose levels to a normal range so that type 2 diabetes does not develop. Even losing a small amount of weight can significantly reduce your risk of getting the disease.

You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are overweight or obese, inactive or carrying the majority of your weight on the belly. A good method to assess your risk level is to use a tape measure around the middle of the stomach, belly button area.

Females – Over 80 cm/31.5” puts you at higher risk
Men – Over 94cm/37” puts you at higher risk

Check out part 2 which looks at our top recommendations for preventing and/or managing type 2 diabetes.

Blog Post by Claire Jackson