DiabetesWhat is diabetes? Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high.
Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, from sugar and other sweet foods. The hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, reduces the amount of glucose in your blood after eating by transporting it into cells but in diabetes, the body cannot make enough insulin or cannot use it as effectively as it should.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common of the two main types of diabetes and in many cases, is associated with being overweight. There are currently over 2 million people in the UK with diabetes and there are thought to be up to another 750,000 people with diabetes who have the condition but don’t yet know it. This is worrying since diabetes is associated with increased risk of other conditions, including heart disease.
• Heredity – having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes increases your risk
• Some ethnic groups are at higher risk – the condition is more prevalent in African, Asian and Caribbean populations
• Gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or delivering a baby weighing more than 9 pounds increases your risk Increasing age
Risk factors that can be controlled by you:
• Being overweight and obesity, particularly around the abdominal region.
• High blood pressure
• High levels of triglycerides (a type of fat molecule in you blood)
• High blood cholesterol level Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of diabetes are:
• Increased thirst
• Frequent urination, especially at night
• Extreme tiredness
• Weight loss
• Blurred vision
• Genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
• Slow healing of wounds
Symptoms may not be so obvious, especially with type 2 Diabetes so it is important to have regular health check ups. If you suspect you have diabetes or are in a high risk group, it is important to consult your doctor.
The following complications may occur if the disease is not accurately managed:
• Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which may result in episodes of hunger, nervousness, shakiness, sweating, dizziness or light-headedness, sleepiness, confusion, difficulty speaking and weakness.
• An increased risk of heart disease
• Kidney disease/failure
• Retinal damage (which can lead to blindness)
• Nerve damage
• Microvascular damage, which can cause impotence in men and poor healing of wounds
• Untreated diabetes can be fatal
Diet & lifestyle
There is actually no such thing as a "diabetic diet". The diet that a person with diabetes follows to help manage his or her blood sugar levels is based on the same nutrition principles that any healthy person, with or without diabetes, should follow for good health.
So to manage and reduce your risk of complications you should:
• Maintain a healthy weight - avoid excessive weight gain and lose weight if you are overweight
• Engage in physical activity for 30 minutes at least five days a week
• Limit your intake of saturated fat
• Consume a high fibre diet, including plenty of whole grain cereals, fruit and vegetables
Most diabetes experts agree that including foods with a low glycaemic index (Gi) in meals can help to maintain even blood sugar levels. Gi tells us whether a food raises blood sugar levels dramatically, moderately or a little. Foods that have only a slow, small effect on blood sugar have a low Gi value and are very beneficial to those with diabetes. On the other hand, foods that cause a rapid and marked rise in blood sugar have a high Gi value and can aggravate the condition. Low Gi foods can also help you to control your appetite by making you feel fuller for longer so that you resist the urge to overeat. However, eating to control diabetes and losing weight isn’t just about the Gi value of foods. It’s equally important to focus on eating a balanced, healthy diet that you can stick with for life. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes your dietitian will advise you in more detail on a diet specific to your needs.