When I turned 40 I had an NHS MOT health check and had a blood test for diabetes. I’m not overweight, I’m still fit and active but you don’t know what’s going on inside your body. I was expecting the results to come back with flying colours and with no problems at all. I was actually only a few points off from having pre diabetes which for me was a massive shock. On the face of it I looked like a fit and healthy middle-aged man but you don’t know what’s going on inside.
Diabetes is a disease where the amount of glucose (or sugar) in the blood is too high. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. It’s a growing problem; the number of people with diabetes has doubled in the last 20 years, mainly through the rise in type 2 diabetes. I had a scare a couple of years ago – I don’t have diabetes, but it’s made me really think about my diet.
Type 1 diabetes can occur when you’re younger, it happens when your body cannot produce enough of a hormone called insulin and it cannot be prevented. It is not down to lifestyle, your age or being overweight but it can be treated with injections of insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent, it develops slowly usually in people over the age of 40 and is often linked to being overweight or obese, inactive or having a family history of type 2 diabetes. It can be delayed or prevented, and type 2 diabetes can usually be controlled and even reversed using diet, exercise and medication. Approximately 90% of people with diabetes have type 2.
Over time, and if poorly managed, diabetes can be harmful to your health, affecting your heart, eyes, feet and kidneys; it can even increase the risk of sexual dysfunction. With the right care and treatment people with diabetes can live a healthy life.
Managing diabetes can be hard work but there is lots of support and advice available. Diabetes UK has a great website with loads of helpful advice. With an improved diet and exercise plan, medication, and by cutting back on drinking, some people with type 2 diabetes have even been able to reverse their diagnosis.
In Norfolk alone it’s estimated that there are 69,000 people aged 16 and over with diabetes – that’s an incredible number. It seems that it’s us middle aged men who are twice as likely to have diabetes and be at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, mainly because men tend to be more overweight than women. Worse than that, research tells us that a lot of men don’t even know they’ve got it.
So, what can we do?
The way we live today is putting more people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There are also other factors that could put you at greater risk. Your age, weight, blood pressure, family history and ethnicity can all add to the risk of getting the condition. The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Being physically active and managing your weight by eating a healthy diet will help and are things that you can do yourself.
How to reduce your risk of getting diabetes
- Be physically active - aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week to help lower your blood pressure and manage your weight
- Reduce time spent sitting
- Find ways to incorporate activity into your day, whether it’s walking the dog or taking the stairs
- Eat a healthy diet
As I say, type 1 is something you may be born with – type 2 is something you may be able to avoid.
It doesn’t matter what you look like or how you’re feeling – check out your risk level on diabetes UK on the NHS website, and if need be get yourself tested at the GP. You only get one life! Take their advice.
For me being pre pre diabetic was a big wakeup call – it’s about managing my lifestyle. I’m still fairly active but it’s about my lifestyle choices.
It’s the same with many issues we’ve talked about in this campaign – many of our health issues are easily preventable. Check out your risk level, plan for the changes you want to make and, if you have concerns take the advice from your GP.
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