What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition where the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly, or your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. This means your blood glucose (sugar) levels keep rising.
Type 2 diabetes can affect all people, regardless of age. Early symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be missed, so those affected may not even know they have the condition. An estimated one out of every three people within the early stages of type 2 diabetes are not aware they have it.
Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates for energy, leading to high levels of blood sugar. These chronically high blood sugar levels increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems.
Over the long term, potential consequences of untreated high blood sugar include:
- Nerve problems
- Vision loss
- Joint deformities
- Cardiovascular disease
- Diabetic coma (life-threatening)
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can start quickly, in a matter of weeks. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly. Over the course of several years—and can be so mild that you might not even notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. Some people do not find out they have the disease until they have diabetes related health problems, such as blurred vision or heart trouble.
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
- numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- sores that do not heal
- unexplained weight loss
How to live with Type 2 Diabetes
When it comes to diet, weight loss is often a primary goal for those with type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, losing weight can help to improve insulin sensitivity and make diabetes easier to manage.
To achieve weight loss, your diet should be low-calorie. A nd because type 2 diabetes is a lifetime condition, it is important to have a diet you are happy to commit and stick to.
In the modern world, many of us have become accustomed to eating energy-dense foods, such as bread, rice, pasta and potato-based foods. Whilst these high-energy foods are convenient they’re less good for those who aren’t regularly physically active.
Vegetables (not counting potatoes) are a strong choice because they provide a variety of nutrients whilst having a relatively low calorie count. Because vegetables are a great source of soluble fibre, they also help us to stay full for longer.
If you are at a healthy weight, aim to eat a balanced diet which allows you to keep your blood glucose levels under control.
Physical activity can be particularly effective in controlling blood glucose levels. When our muscles work they take in glucose from the blood, liver and muscles. After the exercise, the body will start replenishing its stores of glucose by steadily taking in available glucose from the blood.
As well as helping to lower blood sugar levels, exercising makes use of the energy we take in from our diet, meaning that if we exercise more and don’t increase calorie intake, we’re then in a better position to lose weight.
Other lifestyle changes
In addition to diet and physical activity, other lifestyle adjustments such as reducing intake of alcohol and quitting smoking will also help your diabetes and general health.
Blood glucose monitoring
Blood glucose monitoring can be a useful tool as it shows how diet and activity impacts on your blood sugar levels.
If you are on insulin you may need to regularly test your blood glucose levels to help prevent blood glucose levels from going too low.
Blood glucose monitoring is highly valued by some people with diabetes and has helped people achieve excellent control.
The main role of diabetes medication is to help lower blood glucose levels, although more recently developed medications can also aid weight loss.
Each form of medication has side effects and it is important to be aware of which side effects can occur from any medication you are taking. Known side effects will be detailed in the patient information leaflet in every pack of medication.
You may be put onto medication as soon you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or sometime after if your blood glucose levels become too high.
Stronger medication is available if your blood glucose levels remain too high. You can also be moved onto less strong medication if your blood glucose levels improve. Whilst less common, some people may even be able to come off medication, particularly if significant weight loss is achieved.
Diabetes medication needs to be supported with diet changes and regular physical activity to keep you healthy.
Medication for type 2 diabetes includes tablets and/or injectable medication.
Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Prevented?
Yes! You can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with proven, achievable lifestyle changes. Losing a small amount of weight and getting more physically active can help—even if you’re at high risk. Read on to find out about NHSs lifestyle change program and how you can join.