Diabetes is one of the greatest health crisis facing our nation. Over 4 million people in the UK are now living with diabetes, meaning that 1 in every 16 people have the condition. Many of us are aware of some of the general things surrounding diabetes, but with so many facts and figures how much do we actually know about the condition?
The NHS have defined diabetes as a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. There are 2 main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes refers to the medical condition where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the condition where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells in our body don’t react to it. Type 2 is more common than type 1 and is usually linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight or inactive.
The Origin of Diabetes
Whilst the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen rapidly in recent years, the disease is thought to date all the way back to ancient Egypt when it was thought to have been described on papyrus as a disease which caused rapid weight loss and frequent urination. However, it was first named by the Greek physician Aretaeus (30-90CE) who named the condition ‘diabetes’ which means ‘go through’.
Smoking and Diabetes
Smoking has now proven to be a risk factor for diabetes and, for people who already have diabetes, it could increase the risk of complications such as heart disease and stroke.
Nicotine could make your blood sugar levels fluctuate as the chemical alters the way your body uses glucose. This could raise your odds of getting type 2 diabetes or it could make existing diabetes worse.
The Link Between Sugar and Diabetes
Diabetes UK reports that no amount of sugar in our diets or anything in our lifestyle could cause us to get Type 1 diabetes as it is caused by our immune system destroying our insulin producing cells. With Type 2 diabetes, sugar doesn’t directly cause it, but it may be linked to it. We are more likely to get diabetes if we are overweight and this could be caused by eating more calories than our body needs, including sugary food and drinks.
Type 2 diabetes is also not only just caused by weight gain – other factors such as age, family genetics and ethnicity are key factors too, with type 2 diabetes being up to six times more common in people of a South Asian descent, and up to three times more likely in African and Africa-Caribbean people.
The Increase of Diabetes
With someone being diagnosed with diabetes every 2 minutes, Diabetes UK estimates that by 2025 more than 5 million people in the UK will be diagnosed with this condition. Type 2 diabetes affects almost 90% of those with diabetes, but 3 in 5 cases could be prevented or delayed by making healthier lifestyle choices, educating people on their risk of developing the conditions and how to reduce it and by giving early diagnosis for those that are known to have a high risk.
Diabetes costs the NHS over £1.5m an hour or 10% of the NHS budget for England and Wales. Since 1996, the number of people diagnosed has more than doubled.
The Seriousness of Diabetes
Diabetes UK has reported that every week the condition leads to more than 169 amputations, 680 strokes, 530 heart attacks and 500 premature deaths. If you have diabetes, your eyes are at risk of diabetic retinopathy which can lead to sight loss if not treated.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet could help to manage diabetes as you are more able to control your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight. There is also a number of treatments available to help reduce the risk of complications and help towards your wellbeing. Not all treatments are suitable for everyone and your GP or healthcare professional can help you find the medication that’s best for your situation.
As with many medical conditions, there is a lot of information about diabetes that we don’t know. Diabetes UK has, at any one time, around 120 ongoing research projects focused on the disease. While more discoveries are made every day, hopefully we will start to see a decrease in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes or suffering from its long-term effects.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.