This week (12th – 18th June) marks the beginning of National Diabetes Week, a UK-wide event introduced amid concern over the escalating diabetes epidemic.
According to Diabetes UK, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has increased to more than 3.5 million, with a further suspected 549,000 cases undiagnosed. Most of these cases are Type 2 diabetes and therefore largely preventable (https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Get_involved/Diabetes-Week/).
To tackle the crisis, save lives, and cut billions in costs to national health services, improved education of the risk factors and consequences of the disease are needed. As a growing issue that shows no signs of slowing, the public need to better understand how they can prevent diabetes. With this in mind, we’ve spoken with Professor David Leslie, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetes Specialist at The Lister Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK.
Professor Leslie says, “whilst Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, the majority of people in the UK with diabetes suffer from Type 2 diabetes, and there are a number of lifestyle changes that people can make to reduce their chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. These include:
• Regular exercise – Cardiovascular exercise such as competitive active games and swimming 2-3 times a week or a total of 150 minutes of moderate exercise spread over a week (consult your GP for advice before exercise) is beneficial and helps maintain good health
• Follow a healthy diet – Try to eat lots of fresh produce and freshly cooked meals and cut down on processed foods such as ready meals, which are high in sugar and saturated fats, as well as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fried foods, which are high in trans-fats
• Keeping an eye on your weight and BMI is crucial
• Stop Smoking – Due to its harmful effects on cardiovascular health
• Get enough sleep – Aim to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night for good hormone balance
• Reduce stress – Stress can have long-term harmful effects on health, so it is important to take time to relax
Professor Leslie adds, “Most people have diabetes without symptoms, and this is why there are so many people with the disease who are undiagnosed, often referred to as ‘shadow diabetes’. The critical thing is therefore to keep your weight down and take as much exercise as you can.”
Diabetes also leads to many more health issues and Professor Leslie explains some of the typical issues: “There are broadly two areas of damage, roughly divided into large vessels and small vessels. The large vessels are those that link to the brain, which translate as strokes, heart attacks and problems with the legs, leading onto amputation. The problems with the small vessels are largely three-fold: they’re small vessels in the back of the eyes, in the kidneys, and in the nerves, particularly in the feet, meaning damage to these can eventually lead to blindness, kidney failure, and infection / amputation respectively.”
Professor Leslie concludes: “Type 2 diabetes is largely linked to obesity. I therefore recommend that everyone adopts a healthy and balanced diet and exercise plan to prevent the onset of diabetes.”