Living With Diabetes

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Health Advice By Dr Abd Tahrani, Consultant Diabetologist At Heartlands Hospital

World Diabetes Day is celebrated on 14 November every year and aims to raise awareness of the condition.

Did you know around 2.9 million people living in the UK have diabetes, with an additional 850,000 people estimated to be living undiagnosed with the condition? Birmingham has the highest rate of diabetes in the country affecting nearly one in 10 people in some parts of the city (source: Health and Social Care Information Centre). British and South Asians in particular are more prone to having the disease.

So what is diabetes? It is a long term condition where blood sugar levels become too high.

Normally the amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin. In those that have diabetes, the body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there is either not enough insulin to move the glucose or because the insulin that is there does not work properly.

Genetic factors, ethnicity, age as well as obesity influence how likely you are to develop diabetes, which can have serious health consequences including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and foot ulcers. With early diagnosis and treatment, the risk of developing these complications can be reduced.

There are two main types you need to know about – Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. In both cases the symptoms are similar and will include an increased desire to drink as a result of being frequently thirsty, feeling very tired, blurred vision, losing weight and needing to urinate a lot, especially at night. If you think you have symptoms of diabetes, it is important to get medical advice.

Type 1 diabetes can develop very quickly, in a matter of days or weeks. Where Type 1 is present, the body is attacking and destroying insulin supplies. Insulin producing cells are destroyed too, which results in there being no insulin produced.To keep your glucose levels normal, you will need regular insulin treatment. This mainly comes in the form of insulin injections which can either be given with a syringe or an injection pen.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than Type 1. The body either does not produce the required amount of insulin or the body’s cells simply do not respond to the insulin, resulting in insulin resistance.

Treating Type 2 diabetes is usually achieved through lifestyle choices, such as regular monitoring of blood glucose as well as having a healthy and balanced diet. This is a progressive form of the disease and may eventually result in the need for medication – usually in tablet form. Some people will also need injectable treatments.

To help reduce the risk of diabetes, try to avoid eating junk food as well as high sugar foods. High fat and sugar foods can lead to diabetes as well as obesity. Having fresh fruit and vegetables will make a difference. The second way you can prevent the disease is by exercising regularly. Studies have shown the more outdoor activities you do; the more likely it is that the disease will decrease. Reducing the amount of time you sit down can also minimise your risk of developing diabetes.

If you would like to find out about the diabetes services we provide at our Trust, please visit http://www.heartofengland.nhs.uk/diabetes-and-endocrinology/.

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, runs Birmingham Heartlands, Solihull and Good Hope Hospitals, Birmingham Chest Clinic and Solihull Community Services and is one of the top five employers in the region.

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