The 14th of November saw World Diabetes Day taking place. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) joined forces to create this day in order to increase awareness of the disease that is swiftly taking over the world. The date, 14th November, is a significant one as it marks the birthday of the man who co-discovered insulin, Frederick Banting, in 1922, alongside Charles Best.

The theme for World Diabetes Day from 2014-2016 is healthy living, and for this year in particular, promoting a healthy start to the day. state that a healthy breakfast should “help blood sugar levels from getting too high and should keep you full through the morning. Whilst cereal and toast may be cheap, these options typically raise blood sugar levels rapidly and may leave you hungry again before lunch.” Therefore, wholegrains cereals and proteins to keep you feeling full all morning are recommended.

Some of you who may be reading this may have a slight understanding of diabetes and some might not actually know what it is. Diabetes affects 3.3 million people in the UK and an estimated 590,000 people who have the condition, but don’t know it. It is a metabolic disorder that causes an increase in the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This is because the pancreas has either become deficient in producing insulin, or the amount produced is not enough for the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin is a hormone that takes glucose from the blood to the muscles so they can use it for energy. This is a vital process for survival!

There are different types of Diabetes, but the main 2 are Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder which usually presents itself in ages less than 40 years old, most commonly childhood. This type means the pancreas cannot produce any insulin at all and therefore it must be injected into the body through-out the day. It accounts for nearly 10% of all adult cases of Diabetes and is one that cannot be prevented.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin is ineffective. This accounts for approximately 90% of the adult Diabetes population and usually occurs in people over the age of 40 years old. If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, you could be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Therefore, treatment is altering lifestyle but most will need medication in addition.

Most people do not realise the severity that Diabetes could become. Complications of having the disease are in abundance. The risk of Cardiovascular Disease increases so therefore the risk of heart attack and strokes are also raised. Foot and toe amputations are not uncommon in Diabetes. This is because the increased blood glucose levels cause damage to circulation and sensation and therefore there is a larger risk of foot ulcers and infections. Not only does high blood sugar levels cause problems with feet, it can cause damage to the retina of the eye, increasing the risk of blindness. Diabetic neuropathy damages the small blood vessels which supply the nerves and therefore prevents essential nutrients reaching the nerves. The nerve fibres are then damaged or disappear. In patients with Diabetes for over 20 years, the risk of kidney disease is also high.

From reading the above, it is simple to see that protecting ourselves from developing Type 2 is crucial. So what can you do? Some factors you cannot change such as age, ethnicity and family history. But there are many aspects you can change. Here are some tips!

  • Control weight – obesity is one of the most important causes of developing Type 2. Being overweight increases your chances of developing the disease by 7 fold.
  • Chose wholegrains over white processed carbohydrates – Weetabix and bran flakes for breakfast compared to cocopops and rice krispies for example.
  • Reduce sugar intake! Stay away from the coca cola and have a glass of water instead.
  • Limit the consumption of red and processed meats – have fish or poultry instead. When out for a meal, have a chicken burger instead of beef!
  • Quit smoking – smokers are approximately 50% more likely to develop Type 2 compared to a non-smoker. In heavy smokers, this increases even further.
  • Reduce the binge drinking. A glass of wine/pint of beer every few days is not going to harm you but that whole bottle of vodka on a Saturday night will.