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November 14 is World Diabetes Day and marks a series of campaigns, lectures and events aimed at raising awareness of the condition and educating people across the world as to the risks associated with diabetes.
So what is diabetes and how can you reduce your risk of developing this long-term condition?
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to break down glucose into energy because the body is not producing insulin, the hormone responsible for controlling the sugar in the blood, it produces too little, or the insulin fails to work properly.
According to the World Health Organisation, type 1 diabetes affects 10 per cent of British sufferers. This variant of the condition occurs when the body produces no insulin and, for that reason, is often referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes. It usually develops before the age of 40 and will often develop during the teenage years and symptoms can develop quickly. Sufferers will normally be required to inject insulin on a daily basis and must be careful to monitor their glucose levels.
Far more common, however, is type 2 diabetes which affects 90 per cent of UK sufferers. This second variant occurs when there is not enough insulin produced, or when the body's cells do not react to it.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are often all that is needed to maintain good health but, as it is a progressive condition, sufferers may eventually require medication to control blood glucose levels. If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you will receive support from medical professionals and dieticians who can give dietary advice.
The problem with type 2 diabetes is that the symptoms can easily be missed, so that many develop the condition long before they are diagnosed.
Common signs that you may be a sufferer are feeling very thirsty, needing to go to the toilet more frequently than usual (especially at night), extreme tiredness and weight loss or muscle wasting.
Other symptoms include blurred vision, a tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, slow-healing wounds and frequent infections.
It is no secret that type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity. Being overweight, not getting enough exercise and an unhealthy diet are all known to increase the risk of developing the condition.
Therefore a healthy lifestyle is all that is needed to reduce that risk. If you are overweight, losing those excess pounds will do no harm. According to the NHS, women should keep their waist size under 31.5 inches, while men should stay below 37 inches.
The recommended exercise to achieve or maintain that particular goal is just half and hour of moderate aerobic activity (a brisk walk or a bike ride), five days a week.
Diet is also important, obviously, and the charity Diabetes UK recommends plenty of fibre, fresh fruit and veg and a twice-weekly portion of oily fish to stay in tip-top shape. Too much sugar, salt and alcohol is known to bump up your chances of developing the condition and quitting smoking will not only reduce your risk of diabetes but also heart disease and cancer.
Find out if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes at www.diabetes.org.uk and see how you Measure Up.