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What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious lifelong condition that affects around 3.5 million people in the UK. There are two types of diabetes—Type 1 and Type 2—with 90% of those with diabetes having Type 2. Experts estimate that there could be as many as half a million people living with undiagnosed diabetes in the UK.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is rarer and more commonly diagnosed in childhood. The exact cause of Type 1 diabetes remains unknown, but it is characterised by the body's immune system

attacking and destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin is a crucial hormone that regulates blood glucose levels, and without it, the body cannot properly manage sugar levels, leading to serious health issues.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is much more common and typically develops gradually later in life. Several factors can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, including:

  • Family History: Genetics play a significant role, so having a family member with Type 2 diabetes increases your risk.

  • Age: The risk increases with age, particularly after the age of 45.

  • Ethnic Background: People of South Asian, African-Caribbean, or Black African descent are at higher risk.

  • Weight: Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor as excess fat, particularly around the abdomen, can affect the body’s ability to use insulin effectively.

In Type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or the body's cells don't respond properly to insulin (a condition known as insulin resistance). This leads to elevated blood glucose levels, which can cause a variety of health problems over time.

Recognising the Symptoms

Both types of diabetes share common symptoms, including:

  • Increased thirst and hunger

  • Frequent urination

  • Fatigue

  • Blurred vision

  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections

However, Type 1 symptoms can develop quickly, over a few weeks, while Type 2 symptoms often develop more slowly, sometimes over years.

Managing Diabetes

While diabetes can be uncomfortable and require diligent management, there are effective strategies to help control it:

  1. Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: Regularly checking your blood glucose levels can help you manage your condition and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

  2. Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help manage blood sugar levels. Limiting sugary foods and refined carbohydrates is also crucial.

  3. Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps the body use insulin more efficiently. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking or cycling.

  4. Medication and Insulin Therapy: Depending on the type and severity of diabetes, medication or insulin therapy might be necessary to help manage blood glucose levels.

  5. Routine Medical Checkups: Regular visits to your healthcare provider are essential for monitoring your condition, preventing complications, and making necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.

  6. Education and Support: Learning about diabetes and having a support network can help you manage your condition more effectively. Consider joining a diabetes education program or support group.

Understanding diabetes and the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 is crucial for effective management and prevention. With the right approach, people with diabetes can lead healthy, active lives. If you suspect you may have diabetes or are at risk, consult with a healthcare provider for proper screening and guidance.

Early detection and proactive management can make a significant difference in living well with diabetes.


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