Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to properly control the level of sugar in your blood, leading to excess levels that cause longterm damage all around the body.
How does it work?
Usually when we eat food in the form of carbohydrate it is broken into sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream. This sugar is then sent all around the body, taken up by organs and cells and used as energy. Insulin is the key needed to open the door on these cells and go inside. With diabetes type 2 however, the body does not make enough insulin or the lock on the cells is faulty (also known as insulin resistance). Some of us have a higher risk of getting diabetes and these reasons unfortunatley we cannot do anything about. The risk increases for those over the age of 40, those from a south Asian or African-Carribean background, those with a family member who has type 2 diabetes or those with a history of high blood pressure or mental health disorder such as depression.
How common is it and is it a problem?
Although there are 2 types of Diabetes, the vast majority (90%) have type 2. Right now 1 person in every 15 has type 2 diabetes. That is 5 million or over 52 times a full Wembley stadium. Many of these people are asymptomatic so don’t even realise they have it, 1 in 3 already have complications and 500 people die every week as a result of damage caused to organs and tissues.
Can we do anything about it?
Thankfully by making some important lifestyle changes, in 3 out of 5 cases we can prevent type 2 from occurring. We know that the most unhealthy area to carry excess weight is around your middle. By aiming to have a waist circumference <94cm if you are male and <80cm if you are female will drastically reduce your risk. By even reducing our overall weight by 10% we may be able to reduce our risk of getting diabetes in half. New research also shows that by using diet to alter your weight by a specific amount some people are able to put their diabetes into remission. If we can aim to be more active and in particular increase the amount of both cardiovascular and strengthening type activities this can help improve insulin resistance. This is evidenced by the fact that an overweight active person may in fact have better blood glucose control than sedentary healthy weight person. Sleep is very important in both repair of the body and helping us to make better food choices. Aiming to put strategies in place to help us achieve that 7.5-8.5 hours per night is key. Diet and in particular carbohydrate is an essential part of diabetes prevention and management. Understanding portion size, type, amount and timing of carbohydrate alongside other important dietary practices such as following a mediterranean style approach can all play a part on preventing diabetes. Seeking guidance from a dietitian on all of this to help guide you through the conflicting messages and health claims for different types of diets is very important for management of a complex and chronic health condition such as diabetes.
What is the take away message?
With rates of type 2 diabetes doubling in the last 20 years and currently 64% adults reported as being overweight or obese it is now the norm to be overweight and unhealthy. It is not however all doom and gloom. While it is inevitable that some people due to genetics or family history will get type 2 diabetes, we are confident that up to 60% of cases can be prevented through lifestyle measures alone. Even in those where diabetes cannot be cured, knowledge around how to lead a healthy lifestyle and manipulate diet and exercise to help keep your diabetes under control is most certainly possible. For more information or if you or someone you know has type 2 diabetes and you need expert support, feel free to get in touch at http://www.livewelldietitian.co.uk