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Don’t underestimate the seriousness of diabetes

People need to understand the factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes and the risks associated with the condition, says Dr Anna Clarke, Health Promotion and Research Manager, Diabetes Ireland.

Diabetes is a growing problem in all countries — and that includes Ireland. In fact, instances of diabetes are on the rise by 10-12,000 per year. This along with other chronic conditions, are putting severe strain on our overworked health system. People should be under no illusions about the seriousness of diabetes. If unmanaged or diagnosis delayed, it can lead to serious complications. For example liver damage, blindness, retinopathy, heart disease, kidney disease, amputation and early mortality.

What do we know about diabetes?

In people with diabetes, the pancreas makes too little insulin. This makes it hard to enable all the glucose in their blood to get to their muscles and cells to produce energy. The glucose comes from the food we eat. There are various forms of the condition. Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune condition thought to affect 15,000 people in Ireland. It usually develops over days/weeks with obvious symptoms of thirst and frequent urination. Treatment is insulin by injection or infusion. It’s important to stress that this form of the condition is not triggered by lifestyle factors. Although a healthy diet and exercise regime is part of its daily management.

Obesity is on the rise, which can trigger type 2

However, most members of the public would probably consider type 1 diabetes to be the most serious form. However, most healthcare professionals would point to type 2 diabetes — which accounts for 85-90% of all cases— as far more troubling. Type 2 diabetes is where the person produces insufficient insulin to meet body demands.

Education and awareness of diabetes — as with any medical condition — is crucial because it can help you make an informed choice.

Instances of type 2 diabetes are soaring worldwide. Overwhelmingly, it’s because populations are becoming increasingly overweight or obese and physically inactive. Take Ireland as an example. The latest figures from the World Health Organization show that around a third of us don’t achieve recommended levels of exercise. This contributes to our obesity levels and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

We should also mention pre-diabetes — an indication that the person has difficulty clearing all the glucose from their blood — and gestational diabetes, when a woman doesn’t produce enough insulin to meet the needs of pregnancy. Whatever type of diabetes you have, it’s hard to overstate the impact it can have on your life. For instance, to take care of yourself properly you’ll need to plan your daily diet, exercise and medication.

Understanding the causes and risks of diabetes

Education and awareness of diabetes — as with any medical condition — is crucial because it can help you make an informed choice. See Diabetes Education for online education which will help you understand why the medical profession puts such an emphasis on healthy eating and regular physical activity. 

We want to arm people with enough information to put them in control. That might mean taking steps in order to prevent type 2 diabetes, or, if they’ve already been diagnosed with the condition, finding ways to improve their medical management. Such as, live healthier, more satisfying and more fulfilling lives. The largest Diabetes Health and Wellbeing Exhibition takes place in Cork on November 11th, see Diabetes Events for more information.  Join us there. 

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