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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that affects how the body uses carbohydrates for energy. The body's main source of energy comes from carbohydrates, which are turned into glucose in your body. Your pancreas needs to produce the hormone insulin in order for glucose to transfer from your bloodstream to your body cells.

Sometimes the body either cannot make enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin it does make effectively. This is known as insulin resistance which causes blood glucose levels to rise. It is now known that genetics, diet and levels of physical activity all impact on insulin resistance.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, lower-extremity amputations, even death.

How Common is Diabetes?

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases and is found in three major forms: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes. To put the Diabetes epidemic in perspective, it is now the seventh highest cause of death in the United States.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Diabetes Also known as insulin-dependant Diabetes, Type 1 results from the insulin- producing cells of the pancrease being destroyed, thus causing insulin deficiency in the body. It can be treated with injections of synthetic insulin.

How Common is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes accounts for one third of all diagnosed cases of Diabetes and is the form more likely to affect children and people under 30 years of age.

What are the Signs?

Without sufficient insulin, people with Type 1 Diabetes may experience weight loss, excessive thirst and hunger, frequent need to urinate, lack of energy, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.

What can you do about it?

Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic disease requiring significant lifestyle management. This includes diet, physical activity, managing your medication, monitoring your condition on a daily basis and regular checkups.

Nutritional Tip

People with Diabetes need to eat and drink at regular intervals throughout the day to maintain blood-sugar levels and ensure they do not drop to a point that may cause hypoglycaemia. Remember to have plenty of nutritional snacks with you when you simply can't avoid a long period between meals.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Development of Type 2 Diabetes is strongly related to lifestyle factors. People with Type 2 Diabetes do not need insulin injections because the pancreas continues to secrete insulin.

How Common is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes accounts for the majority of all diagnosed cases. It used to be known as adult-onset Diabetes given it usually occurred in adults over the age of 40 who are often overweight. However, alarmingly, it is now also being diagnosed in overweight children as young as five years of age.

What are the Signs?

Symptoms usually develop slowly and are not usually obvious. Some people simply feel tired, but when blood-glucose levels are very high symptoms similar to those related Type 1 Diabetes can develop.

What can you do about it?

Increasing the amount of exercise you do; losing weight if necessary and maintaining a healthy weight; increasing your fibre intake; and cutting your fat intake (particularly saturated fats) have all been shown to delay or prevent the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

Activity Tip

Have a healthly snack before you start exercising such as a banana, apple, rice cracker or wholemeal toast with peanut butter. It will help boost your energy and keep you going.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

This type occurs in some woman during pregnancy due to an increase in hormones, some of which may have anti-insulin properties.

What are the Signs?

Symptoms can include excessive thirst, passing large amounts of urine and fatigue, but often there are no symptoms.

How common is Gestational Diabetes?

This form is more commonly found in pregnant woman who are overweight or have a family history of Diabetes. Woman with a history of delivering a baby weighing more than 4kg (9lb) at birth, or a history of miscarriages or stillbirths are also at risk.

What can you do about it?

Woman who are diagnosed with elevated blood sugar levels in pregnancy can usually control the problem with diet and exercise, although some may have to take insulin. If you may be at risk, your GP will measure your blood-glucose levels during pregnancy. In about 90% of cases, blood glucose levels return to normal after delivery, but these woman remain at increased risk of developing Diabetes in later life.

Pregnancy tip

Take advice from a state-registered dietician to help you design a meal plan that can be adjusted through pregnancy based on levels of glucose in your blood.


DIY Health Test