There are an estimated 4.5 million people living in the UK with diabetes, and according to Diabetes UK a further 1.1 million people in the UK who have yet to be diagnosed. With so many undiagnosed cases, it reiterates that diabetes is an increasing burden of ill health.
The chances of developing diabetes depend on a mix of genes, lifestyle and environmental factors.
But what exactly is diabetes?
Simply put, diabetes is a condition which happens when you have too much glucose, a type of sugar, in your blood.
Diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges facing us today. It causes conditions which include heart disease, strokes, sexual dysfunction, and complications in pregnancy, kidney failure, amputations and sight loss. It is also a risk factor for conditions such as dementia, depression and nerve damage (neuropathy).
When people don’t have diabetes, their blood sugar levels are controlled by insulin produced in their pancreas. If someone has diabetes, they’re either not producing insulin, or the insulin they do produce can’t work properly or there isn’t enough of it. This means that sugar builds up in their blood.
There are 2 main types of diabetes. When you’ve got type 1 diabetes, you can’t make any insulin at all and this is a lifelong condition. Everyone with type 1 needs to treat their diabetes by injecting insulin or using an insulin pump. If you’ve got type 2 diabetes, it’s a bit different. Type 2 develops when the body still makes some insulin but it’s not able to work properly or there isn’t enough. Type 2 diabetes can be managed with a healthy diet, regular physical activity and, if needed, by weight loss. About 90 per cent of people with diabetes have type 2.
What are the causes of diabetes?
There is no common cause of diabetes as it can vary depending on the individual and the type of diabetes.
The causes of type 1 diabetes can vary considerably and can be triggered by a person’s genes or environmental factors. It occurs when your immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.
There are a variety of risk factors for type 2 diabetes, any or all of which increase the chances of developing the condition. These include genetics, obesity, living a sedentary lifestyle, increasing age and bad diets.
How do I find out if I am at risk?
The YorkTest Diabetes Test home blood test can identify if you are at risk of diabetes, it can identify if you need to visit your GP for further support, and/or can help you to monitor the effectiveness of lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing diabetes in the future.
Once you have taken the test and your blood sample is analysed, you will receive a colour coded score. Depending on where your results sit within our recommended range, you will receive advice on what to do next.
Your blood sample will be tested for glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c). Haemoglobin molecules contain iron and carry oxygen around the body, delivering it to all cells in the body. HbA1c is haemoglobin with ‘sugar’ molecules attached to it. The more sugar in the bloodstream, the more it attaches to the haemoglobin.
By making necessary lifestyle changes you can go a long way towards decreasing your chance of developing diabetes.
What lifestyle changes should I make?
- Cut back on your sugar intake – If you tend to snack through the day, why not pack some fruit, a boiled egg, carrot sticks, popcorn or a small handful of unsalted nuts?
- Drink less alcohol – Always drink in moderation but if you do drink alcohol, choose drinks that contain less carbs such as wine, a light beer or spirits
- Maintain a healthy body weight – Regularly check your BMI and understand what a healthy weight for your height and body type is. If you are overweight, you may increase your insulin resistance. Eating healthily and lowering the amount of saturated fat, salt and sugar in your diet can lower the risk of developing diabetes
- Regular exercise – Exercising regularly will help lower blood glucose levels and help towards maintaining a healthy weight
- Manage your stress levels – This might be easier said than done but lengthy periods of stress can cause blood pressure to rise and, as a result, increase blood sugar level