8 things you need to know about diabetes right now

There are over four million people in the UK suffering from diabetes. [Photo: Getty]
There are over four million people in the UK suffering from diabetes. [Photo: Getty]

There are over four million people in the UK suffering from diabetes, according to Diabetes UK, so chances are you know someone who’s living with the condition, even if its your brother’s best friend’s younger sister or something. But how much do we really, really know about it?

Today marks World Diabetes day, so with that in mind we’ve decided to cut through the whispers and clear up some of the most common myths about the disease. From major misconceptions to healthy habits that can reduce your risk, up your know how now, so you can stay healthier later.

All diabetes is equal.

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly, but the two main types of diabetes are actually pretty different. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. About 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1. The causes aren’t actually known, but its not to do with being overweight and isn’t preventable. Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses – taken either by injections or via an insulin pump.

People with Type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn’t work properly. Around 85 to 90% of diabetic people have the Type 2 variety. Family history, age and ethnic background could put you at an increased risk of developing the disease, but your weight could also have an influence. It is generally treated with a healthy eating plan and increased exercise, though occasionally insulin and/or medication is also required.

There are only two types of diabetes

You’ve probably heard mention of two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2, but though these are the most common, other types do exist including gestational diabetes that can occur temporarily in pregnant woman, diabetes MODY (Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young) and diabetes LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults).

Got diabetes? Blame your diet

Binging on junk food might not be the healthiest way to live, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to diabetes. It’s fair to say that being overweight does increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but there are other risk factors that play an important part, such as age, family history and ethnicity. Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with weight or lifestyle.

Your diet may not necessarily have anything to do with diabetes [Photo: Getty]
Your diet may not necessarily have anything to do with diabetes [Photo: Getty]

People with diabetes have to live sugar-free

Being diabetic doesn’t mean you have to go sugar-total. Yes you should follow a healthy balanced diet – that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and pulses, nuts, fish and some dairy. But sugar doesn’t have to be completely off the menu. The key is moderation.

You’d know if you had diabetes

Not necessarily. According to Diabetes UK an estimated 549,000 people in the UK have this disease but haven’t yet been diagnosed. That’s a hell of a lot of people who have no idea they’re walking around with a potentially life-changing condition. Whether you’re aware you’re suffering from the condition may depend on the type you have.

The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes – needing to go to the toilet a lot, being really thirsty, sudden weight loss – can be difficult to ignore and tend to come on quite quickly. Type 2 diabetes can be easier to miss as the symptoms can often develop quite slowly, especially in the early stages. Some people don’t get diagnosed until they have been suffering from the condition for many years.

Diabetes means you’ll suffer from more colds

Not true. While there is some research that people with this condition are at higher risk of developing illnesses, there’s nothing that proves this conclusively. But there are certain illnesses that are more common in people with diabetes such as flu and pneumonia, and sufferers may be more affected or be unwell for longer.

Eating more healthily will prevent diabetes

If you’re thinking you might escape a diabetes diagnosis if you stockpile the veggies you might want to think again because again it depends on the type of diabetes you’re hoping to ward off. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. But up to 58 per cent of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by making simple changes to our lives including exercising more and upping your healthy food quota.

Not all diabetes sufferers have to inject insulin [Photo: Getty]
Not all diabetes sufferers have to inject insulin [Photo: Getty]

You have to be overweight to suffer from type 2 diabetes

Think that because you’re not scoffing burgers on the sofa you’re not at risk? Think again because the condition is becoming a problem for the young and fit too. About 15 percent of people with type 2 diabetes aren’t overweight—but as we know slim doesn’t necessarily = healthy. You might seem healthy on the outside, but your insides might not agree and you’ll therefore be putting you at risk of developing the condition.

And diet and exercise aren’t the only important factors in reducing your risk. Stress can make your blood-sugar levels skyrocket, and regularly getting less than six hours sleep can in fact double your risk of diabetes. Time to up the ZZZs and the zen.

For more information on diabetes visit Diabetes UK.

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