In recent years there has been a dramatic rise in all forms of diabetes, from the result of various socioeconomic, environmental factors, chronic inflammation and also possibly gut microbiome. It is a huge global concern…

The rates of people developing diabetes since the 1980’s more than quadrupled (108-422million worldwide according to the World Health Organisation) up to 2014, outstripping population growth(4.4billion-6.8billion) at a ratio of 4:1.5.

It is estimated that diabetes costs the UK economy around £14 billion with the NHS spending about £8.8 billion on treating an estimated 3 million people with type 2 diabetes. This represents nearly 9% of the total budget with no sign of improving in the near future.

In recent times more and more attention has been given to this issue together with obesity, which goes hand in hand. It is very easy to blame the illness on a Western type lifestyle and diet which oversimplifies the issue on both fronts.

For the most part both Type 2 diabetes and obesity is preventable by implementing some seemingly simple measures which could reduce the numbers and the burden on the health systems.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Without getting too technical, it is a condition of the body where the cells cannot use the insulin that is produced by the pancreas effectively to manage glucose in the blood and convert into energy. This leads to a build-up of glucose in the blood causing hyperglycaemia.

Diabetes risk factors

There are a couple of risk factors that can increase the risk of developing diabetes, some of which we have control over and other we cannot change but can manage.

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Factors we have control over:

1. Carrying excess weight especially around the belly
2. High cholesterol
3. High blood pressure
4. Inactivity
5. Chronic insomnia and stress

Factors we do not have control over:

1. Family members with diabetes
2. People belonging to certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop diabetes
3. Age. Generally speaking the over 40 group are at a higher risk although it is getting more common in children and younger people
4. Gestational Diabetes (developing diabetes while pregnant)
5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

What are the symptoms?

How do I know if I have diabetes? The symptoms of diabetes is normally the following:
1. Increased thirst
2. Headaches
3. Increased hunger especially after just having eaten
4. Frequent urination and having a distinctive smell
5. Fatigue especially after eating
6. Blurred vision
7. Unexplained weight loss
8. Cuts that takes a long time to heal
9. Itchy skin especially around the genitals
10. Repeated yeast infections.

If you are overweight, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol you may be at risk of developing diabetes.

Diabetes complications.

Diabetes can be a potentially dangerous condition if left unchecked and untreated, some of the possible complications are:

Damage to the small capillaries delivering blood to eyes, kidneys, nerves and extremities.

1. Eyes – Loss of vision caused by Cataracts and Retinopathy leading to blindness.

2. Kidneys – Uncontrolled diabetes can cause kidney failure or nephropathy which leads to impaired kidney function and dialysis might be needed.

3. Nerves – Small blood vessels supply the nerves, with the loss of them the nutrient supply of the nerves diminish and cause neuropathy. The hands and feet are normally affected first causing pain, weakness and tingling.

4. Extremities – The small blood vessels supplying hands and feet with blood gets restricted causing less blood or no blood to supply the tissues with nutrients and the affected tissue dies off and has to be amputated.

Prevention

Prevention is always better than curing. So what is the best option to prevent becoming diabetic? The easy way is to look at the risk factors that could possibly lead to diabetes.

1. Diet – Although research on the best diet to follow to prevent or indeed treat is ambiguous at best, it is essential to avoid highly processed food as much as possible. Choose vegetables, lean meats, and limit alcohol consumption.

2. Exercise – This is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal and probably not used enough. It will not be long now until your doctor will prescribe exercise with more conventional treatments. Any exercise is important over doing nothing, the maths is simple, reduce the excess weight and your risk of developing diabetes reduces also.

With exercise you get the benefit of positively affecting high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, or changing your cholesterol profile which is probably more accurate. Exercise also gives you a handy way of dealing with stress and bad sleep patterns which could increase the risk of developing diabetes.
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