Type 2 diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges facing the world today. The number of people living with diabetes in the UK has more than doubled in the last 20 years. The current figures from Diabetes UK as of February this year state that 4.7 million people in the UK now have diabetes and that over 90% of those are cases of type 2 diabetes. It is predicted that this figure will rise to 5.5 million within 10 years.
The risk in the UK of developing type 2 diabetes is around 1 in 10 but there are various factors that can increase your risk:
- You are a white person over the age of 40
- You are of black or South Asian heritage and over the age of 25
- You have a parent, sibling or child with type 2 diabetes
- You have been diagnosed with high blood pressure
- You are overweight, especially if you’re large around the middle
You may have heard type 2 diabetes referred to as a lifestyle disease or a 21st century epidemic but what are the reasons for this shocking rise?
We have evolved over millions of years and for something to change so rapidly in such a relatively short space of time there has to be something fundamentally wrong. There have been an enormous amount of studies done to suggest the flaw in our lifestyles in the 21st century is poor diet and lack of exercise.
My opinion is that we have become victims of our own success and there have been many technological advances and societal changes that now make our lives easier. We don’t have to cook because we can buy meals ready-made, we have more access to high calorie, low nutrient dense food, most of us own a car and we drive most places, we have sedentary jobs and some people don’t even have to get up to turn the lights off, Alexa will do it for you.
The good news is that developing type 2 diabetes is not inevitable and according to Diabetes UK ‘more than half of all cases of Type 2 can be prevented or delayed by ‘making a few simple changes to your lifestyle now’
By far the biggest thing you can do for your health is improve the quality of your diet. We should all eat a healthy, balanced diet containing real food and cook most of your meals from scratch. Also, if you eat it, reduce the amount of processed food in your diet.
Secondly, include some exercise in your daily life. The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. That’s a 30 minute brisk walk 5 days a week and it’s probably a lot less than the time most people spend watching television or on social media. Exercise increases the amount of sugar used by the muscles for energy and helps the body to use insulin more efficiently which can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
And thirdly if you are overweight, especially if you carry excess weight around your middle, it is important to take steps to reduce it. This extra weight means that fat can build up around your liver and pancreas. This can lead to insulin resistance because the insulin can’t get through the fat and into the cells where it is needed.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition if left untreated and can lead to a number of life changing conditions. The good news, in many cases, is it can be managed using diet and exercise and by making better lifestyle choices.
Your health is your wealth.