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We delve a little further into one of this week's main health headlines and ask our Medical Director to explain a little more.
Diabetes has been a hot topic in the news lately with a recent BBC article revealing that in England, the number of people with diabetes is projected to rise by one million by 2035. This could lead to a 29% rise in heart attacks and strokes linked to diabetes, according to the British Heart Foundation.
Diabetes is a condition where you have trouble controlling your blood sugar levels. When your sugar levels are too high it can cause a whole host of serious problems, ranging from problems with your sight and extremities as well as increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Diabetes is currently one of the biggest health issues in the UK. Ideally, it is best to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.
There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the insulin produced by the body is not enough for the body's needs or the body's cells are resistant to it. Insulin resistance, or lack of sensitivity to insulin, happens primarily in fat, liver, and muscle cells.
The rise in those developing diabetes is thought to be largely driven by the increasing rates of obesity. Even though the exact cause of diabetes is still not fully understood, it is known that those who are overweight or obese have a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those with diabetes have an increased risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases and the surge in type 2 diabetes cases could put thousands of people at risk of a heart attack or stroke. We asked our Medical Director Dr Sam Rodgers to explain why this is:
“High levels of glucose in the blood can damage the lining of the body’s blood vessels and cause them to narrow. If blood glucose remains at high levels for long periods of time, then blood vessels can narrow to the point where there isn’t enough blood flow to supply oxygen to the tissues of the body. In the case of the heart, this can lead to angina or heart attacks, whilst in the brain it can cause stroke and transient ischaemic attacks.”
If you are worried your lifestyle may be affecting your health, an HbA1c blood test is the most effective way to test for diabetes. HbA1c is a longer-term measure of blood glucose levels compared to testing blood glucose alone. It provides a good indication of the level of sugar in your blood over a 2-3 month period.
HbA1c is also ideal to track your blood sugar levels over time. Pre-diabetes is the term used to describe the transition between not having diabetes and having it. If your HbA1c result is high, the good news is that you can reverse pre-diabetes and stop the development of diabetes through simple lifestyle measures such as reducing calories and eating a healthy balanced diet, cutting down on refined sugars, increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables and exercising regularly.