Did you know that there are 9 main types of diabetes? Only 2 can be prevented and 1 out of the 2 is the most common type of diabetes. That is, type 2 diabetes mellitus, a chronic, progressive condition. “Chronic” - meaning that it will last for a long time and “progressive” - meaning it only really gets worse. Pre-diabetes is the term given to that grey area where your blood sugar is between normal and diabetic levels. This is such an important area because early decisive action here can STOP the development of type 2 diabetes.
As health care professionals, we have long believed type 2 diabetes mellitus to be a condition that usually only gets worse and increases the risk of getting other diseases. Now, new research is showing us that we might be able to reverse it. However, we have a long way to go and with over 4 million people diagnosed with diabetes, 550,000 living with undiagnosed diabetes and over 24,000 people dying every year prematurely, action needs to be taken. Prevention is better than cure, if you can prevent it with simple lifestyle changes, why wouldn’t you? That starts with education.
Firstly, let’s break down some myths:
You can only get diabetes if you’re overweight or obese. False. 1 in 5 people with type 2 diabetes are of normal weight or even underweight.
You get diabetes by eating too much sugary food. False. Diabetes is linked to a high sugar diet, yes, but not just sugary foods. A diet high in carbs and fat also contribute to the development of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is mild. False. If it is poorly managed, it can cause many life-threatening complications. E.g. blindness (diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the UK) and amputations (yikes!). In men, it can cause impotence and erectile dysfunction.
Type 2 diabetes is contagious. False. I’m not sure how this myth developed but type 2 diabetes is definitely not contagious, nor are any other types of diabetes. The only way it can be passed on is from parent to child and the likelihood then, is quite low.
It’s easy to tell when you’re diabetic. False again. You can often live up to 10 years undiagnosed. Thus, increasing the risk of other complications like blindness, stroke and heart disease.
Unfortunately people of colour fall victim to the statistics. 1 in 2 (People of African descent) living in the UK will develop type 2 diabetes by 80, compared to 1 in 5 of people with European descent. Those are some eye-opening statistics. It is clear that diet and lifestyle are great risk factors. Our oils, heavy starch based meals, deliciously seasoned meals and traditionally, our lack of exercise can especially increase the risk. It’s simply not enough to leave our physical destiny to nature or prayer alone.
There are additional reasons why you may be more likely than not to develop type 2 diabetes. A yes to all or most of the following questions increases your likelihood. Are you over 25? Do you have a family member with diabetes? Have you ever had high blood pressure? Are you overweight? Are you large around your middle section (waist)? If you’ve answered a yes to all or most, it may be worth taking a few minutes and find out your risk here
Many people with pre-diabetes or undiagnosed type 2 diabetes have no noticeable symptoms, so you may not. There are some symptoms that will warrant popping into your GP for a glucose test, especially if they are not associated with any actions you’ve taken. These symptoms include peeing frequently; getting hungry and thirsty more often than usual; losing or gain weight randomly; blurry vision; wounds that take a long while to heal; tiredness; a sweet, fruity breath; and patches of darker skin in the groin area, neck, armpit and other creases of skin. Women may get additional symptoms such as vaginal thrush, yeast infections or UTIs. More often than not, we notice changes in our body so it's important not to rule it out as “random”.
Pre-diabetes isn't the end all and be all. Little lifestyle changes can have a great impact:
Losing even as little as 7% of your current weight
Don’t delay, the earlier on pre-diabetes can be detected, the more we can do to prevent it from developing to full blown chronic and progressive type 2 diabetes.