Diabetes Awareness Week 2021 this year is from June 14th to June 20th. Organised by the charity Diabetes UK the week is all about creating awareness of the condition and encouraging people to share their experiences of living with diabetes.
The charity, which has a long history of campaigning, was founded in 1934 by the writer H.G.Wells and Dr. R.D. Lawrence, who were themselves diabetics.
Diabetes refers to a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body is unable to produce any insulin. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body is unable to produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not react to insulin.
This year it is more important than ever to get the message about diabetes out in the community. Experts are worried that during the pandemic people have been more concerned with Covid-19 and the symptoms of diabetes have been largely ignored.
Even before Covid-19 diabetes afflicted more people in the U.K. than any other serious health condition. There are 4.6 million Type 1 sufferers, and an estimated 12.3 million people are potential type 2 diabetics. To put the problem of diabetes in the UK into some kind of perspective, 700 people are diagnosed with diabetes every day, this works out at one person every 2 minutes. Of those with diabetes, it is estimated that 90% have Type 2 diabetes.
Public Health England say diabetes prevalence is higher in men than in women, 9.6% versus 7.6%, and the prevalence is higher in people from South Asian and black ethnic groups compared with people from white, mixed, or other ethnic groups, 15.2% versus 8.0%.
There is also a clear association between increasing age and higher diabetes prevalence, from 9.0% aged 45 to 54 to 23.8% for those aged 75 years and over.
Diabetes is predicted to become a huge crisis for the future health of the U.K.’s population. It is a health condition that can have a major impact on one’s life and once at an advanced stage, diabetes can cause a host of other health complications.
One of those complications is the detrimental effect diabetes seems to have on coronavirus survival rates. Last year, in the early weeks of the pandemic, up to May 11, 2020, 23 698 people with COVID-19 died in hospital in England. Approximately a third of these deaths occurred in people with diabetes: 7434 (31·4%).
Each week in the UK it is estimated that diabetes leads to 160 amputations, 680 strokes, 530 heart attacks and 2,000 cases of heart failure. And every week more than 500 people with diabetes die prematurely.
Research has shown people from South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi), Black African and African Caribbean and backgrounds are also at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes from a younger age.
It is still not understood why but people from these backgrounds are also at risk of developing type 2 diabetes from the age of 25. This is much younger than the white population, as their risk increases from 40.
What is known is people from South Asian backgrounds are more likely to experience insulin resistance at a younger age. This could be linked to how fat is stored in the body and particularly around the middle. This type of fat is known as visceral fat, and it can build up around important organs like the liver and pancreas. Having too much of this type of fat is just one of the factors that can affect health and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Research has shown that there are several risk factors linked to this, some that the individual can manage and others that they cannot. Type 2 diabetes is serious and can go undetected for up to 10 years. It is not inevitable and in many cases can be prevented or delayed. If you do nothing, you could end up with some serious complications.
No individual is the same. The symptoms experienced will not exactly match those of another person. However, the most common symptoms experienced by many people with diabetes are increased thirst, increased urination, feeling tired and losing weight.
The advice is simple; if you feel very unwell or your symptoms have come on quickly seek an urgent appointment with your GP or call NHS 111. If you have any symptoms, it is important to contact your GP and ask for a blood test for diabetes.
The good news is that we can all do our bit to reduce the risk of diabetes. The changes we make do not have to be big, dramatic changes to the way we live. Things like walking a bit more every day can help. You can also make healthier food choices, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, choosing wholegrains, including some yogurt and cheese in your diet, and having less processed foods can all make a huge difference to your risk level.
If you are worried about your own risk and want to act, Diabetes UK have provided a free online, ‘Know Your Risk’ tool. Just answer a few simple questions and you will find out what your chance of developing type 2 diabetes is. If you get a score of 16 or more, you may be eligible for a free place on Healthier You, the NHS diabetes prevention programme for England. Just follow the link: http://bit.ly/Kn0wYourR1sk
In encouraging everyone to check their own personal diabetes risk Clare Howarth, Head of the North of England at Diabetes UK said: “The number of people with diabetes is increasing year-on-year and the pandemic has shown with devastating clarity how diabetes puts you at increased risk of poorer outcomes when contracting the virus. Yet, we know that with the right support, up to half of type 2 diabetes cases − and the accompanying risk of developing life threatening complications − can be delayed or prevented.”
She added: “We want to help people understand their personal risk of type 2 diabetes and the first step is to complete our free Know Your Risk Tool, today. By taking just five minutes out of your day, you have the power to access information and support that could change your health for the better.”
If you or a member of your family has been affected by diabetes we would like to hear about it. Why not share your experiences and help others?