Last year, statistics from leading charity Diabetes UK showed that there are now 4.7 million people living with the disease in the country, with the number expected to rise to 5.5 million by 2030. Perhaps even more striking is that it’s estimated that nearly a million of those sufferers are unaware of having diabetes. When left unchecked and unmanaged, this can lead to serious complications later down the line.
So, while there’s no approved cure for the condition, there are ways in which you can manage and control diabetes, such as with a healthy diet, regular exercise and by taking care of yourself. Getting checked for diabetes is crucial, both in treating the disease and being aware of your lifestyle’s impact on it. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about diabetes and the importance of getting it checked.
WHAT IS DIABETES?
For such a prevalent condition, it’s also one so often misunderstood. In layperson’s terms, diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar is too high. Glucose, the form of sugar found in blood and the main source of energy in our bodies, is regulated by a hormone known as insulin. When our bodies don’t produce enough insulin or don’t use that insulin properly, it can result in high blood sugar levels, which can lead to health problems like contracting diabetes.
THE 3 MAIN TYPES OF DIABETES
- Type 1 Diabetes
This occurs mostly in children and adolescents but can happen at any age. Those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes need regular insulin injections to maintain blood sugar levels, as the body produces little or no insulin in such cases.
- Type 2 Diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, your body does not use the insulin produced effectively. Over time, people with this form of diabetes may need insulin injections, but maintaining a healthy diet, lifestyle and regular physical activity helps to keep the situation at bay. Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults, and the most common form of diabetes overall.
- Gestational Diabetes
Occurring during pregnancy, gestational diabetes comprises high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, and complications can affect both mother and child. Gestational diabetes often disappears after pregnancy, but women affected are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES?
The general signs of diabetes include:
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Excessive urination
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Slow-healing wounds
- Numbness in feet and hands
- Dry, itchy skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent skin infections
Monitoring blood sugar levels is crucial when diagnosed with diabetes. Using lancets, such as those seen here on https://piplancets.com/blogs/pip/types-of-lancets-1 can help you test your blood sugar in a simple and painless way.
CAUSES OF TYPE 1 DIABETES
The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. What is known is that it occurs when the immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. This causes the absence of insulin, which results in high blood sugar levels. Scientists believe type 1 diabetes could be influenced by genes and environmental factors, but research is still ongoing to find a definitive cause.
CAUSES OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Type 2 diabetes can happen if the body becomes resistant to insulin. In these cases, the body doesn’t use the insulin produced properly, leaving it yearning for more insulin to enter cells. Being overweight, obesity, lack of physical activity and genetics are all believed to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
CAUSES OF GESTATIONAL DIABETES
In pregnancy, the body must make more insulin in order to keep blood sugar levels steady. Gestational diabetes occurs in women unable to produce enough insulin to keep up with the pregnancy, leading to high blood sugar levels. This form of diabetes usually disappears after pregnancy, but women and children affected are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING CHECKED FOR DIABETES
According to the WHO, it is estimated that about 422 million people have diabetes worldwide and 1.6 million deaths are directly linked to diabetes annually. Therefore, it’s vital to minimise this risk by identifying it early.
Beware of some risk factors that can cause diabetes, including:
- Increased weight
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure
- Family history
- Gestational diabetes
GETTING CHECKED FOR DIABETES CAN AID IN:
Avoiding Future Complications
When left untreated, diabetes can cause other complications. These are serious and can even be deadly. These complications, including cardiovascular disease, eye damage, skin condition and kidney damage, may all be avoided with early diagnosis.
Identifying Necessary Dietary Changes
If you get tested and are diagnosed with diabetes, changing your diet can do much to help you in dealing with the condition. Some recommended foods for diabetics are fatty fish, leafy greens and eggs; check out a more extensive rundown of what represents a healthy, balanced diet for diabetics, provided by Diabetes UK here.
Discovering Which Blood Sugar Levels Are Too High or Low
Maintaining blood sugar is key to treating diabetes. Getting checked will help you to identify which levels are too high or low and what you need to do to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. Easy ways to maintain good levels include staying hydrated and increasing your fibre intake.
Creating a Physical Workout Routine
Regular exercise helps in reducing weight, lowering blood sugar levels and increasing insulin sensitivity. Getting tested for diabetes will allow you to write up a tailored workout routine to control the condition, should you be diagnosed.
Tracking Your Progress
Getting checked for diabetes allows you to make lifestyle choices to help in either mitigating the disease’s impact or preventing the disease. If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you can start following advice from a doctor, manage the illness and track your progress. If you don’t have the disease, you can still record your progress and adopt lifestyle choices to ensure you stay healthy.
Understanding Factors That Affect Blood Sugar Levels
There are many constituent factors that can cause high blood sugar levels, and by learning to control them, you stand a better chance of protecting yourself from diabetes. For example, stress can produce hormones that raise glucose levels, and illnesses such as cold and flu can raise blood sugar levels in the body, which increases the risk of diabetes. A holistic approach to health, then, in the mind and body, can have a positive impact on diabetes.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Diabetes has no specific cure. You can decrease your risk of developing diabetes by eating healthy foods, engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a stable body weight. By controlling these factors, you put yourself in the best position possible to manage diabetes. Consult your doctor for further guidance on diabetes and maintaining good health.