Healthchat: Type 2 diabetes

Do you or someone you know have type 2 diabetes? You’re not alone.

In less than 20 years, the number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK has more than doubled to nearly three million. And about 850,000 are thought to have the disease without knowing it.

Effective treatment is essential as it can help reduce the risk of diabetic complications, such as heart disease, strokes, nerve damage and blindness.

Even better, reducing your chances of getting type 2 diabetes will give a huge boost to your health – now and for years to come.

What is type 2 diabetes?

If you have type 2 diabetes, you can’t control the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood. Too much sugar can damage blood vessels to the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and limbs.

Poor glucose control happens when you don’t make enough of a hormone called insulin, or your body doesn’t respond properly to it.

People with untreated type 2 diabetes may feel very thirsty, need to pass urine more often, especially at night, or feel very tired. They may have blurred vision, get dry, itchy skin or frequent or recurrent infection, or feel tingling in their hands and feet.

Who gets type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is most common in people who:

  • Are over 40
  • Have a parent, brother, sister or close relative with type 2 diabetes
  • Are overweight or have a big waist
  • Are of South Asian, African or Caribbean origin

How will I know?

Having a blood glucose test is an easy way to find out if you have type 2 diabetes, or are at risk of getting it. If you are aged 40-74, your GP can offer you a test as part of the NHS Health Check programme which aims to prevent diseases like type 2 diabetes. If you are not in that age group but are concerned that you could have type 2 diabetes, your GP can still assess your risk and arrange a blood glucose test.

What happens next?

Finding out you have type 2 diabetes is rather a shock, but the good news is there are plenty of effective ways to treat it.

Step 1: many people with type 2 diabetes benefit from eating more healthily, taking more exercise and losing weight (if they are overweight). Sometimes this is enough to get their blood glucose level under control.

Step 2: if diet and exercise aren’t enough, then daily anti-diabetic tablets may improve the way the body uses insulin or help it make more insulin. Some people inject insulin itself. In recent years, new types of anti-diabetic drugs have been introduced and more are on the way.

Top tips for staying healthy

Whether you already have diabetes or are trying to reduce your risk, keeping your weight under control is the key to staying healthy:

  • Eat three balanced meals per day. If you skip meals, you are more likely to fall back on unhealthy snacks

Avoid sweetened fruit drinks and smoothies, and snack on dried fruit instead of biscuits and crisps

  • Choose starchy carbohydrates (e.g pasta, grainy bread, rice or potatoes) instead of sweet carbohydrates (e.g.: cakes and biscuits)
  • Eat two or more portions of oily fish per week (e.g.: salmon, mackerel or sardines), and five portions of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Check the “traffic light” labelling on foods and avoid those with high fat, high saturated fat, high sugar and high salt
  • Get active – 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on at least five days per week for adults, and an hour per day for children [Link to Cardiovascular exercise for everyone and other exercise/fitness content]

Link Up

Find out more about diabetes prevention and treatment, and getting tested at:

Diabetes UK

NHS Choices

NHS Health Check

NFPZZA0382 Sept14

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