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Personal Health Q3 2021

Preventing type 2 diabetes: early recognition, healthy diet and activity

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Sinéad Powell

Senior Dietitian, Regional Development Officer, Diabetes Ireland 

One in three families in Ireland are affected by diabetes. There are about 225,000 people living with type 2 and about 25,000 living with type 1 diabetes in Ireland. It’s important to know the differences between them, causes and treatments. 


Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because of a lack of insulin or insulin is not working properly. Diabetes prevalence is on the increase, especially for type 2 diabetes as this is largely linked to unhealthy lifestyle behaviours frequently associated with being overweight and/or inactivity. 

Type 1 diabetes on the other hand is not linked to lifestyle and is classed as an autoimmune condition. It cannot be prevented and has to be treated with insulin (everyday injections or insulin pump). 

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, treatment involves managing glucose levels to keep these as close to normal levels as possible.

Diabetes risk factors 

Information on the prevalence of diabetes in Ireland is based on estimates from different regional and national studies. Nevertheless, the risk of raised blood glucose is 5.5% in those aged over 50 and this increases to 13.4% in those aged over 80 years. 

Knowing the symptoms and risk factors for type 2 diabetes is important as non-diagnosis can seriously affect your quality of life. Undiagnosed or poorly managed diabetes can damage your heart, eyes, nerves and kidneys leading to serious health problems. However, if managed well, you can live a long and healthy life. Early recognition, good understanding and making positive lifestyle changes can help to prevent any potential complications.

When to see a doctor? If you see any of these symptoms: 

  • Blurred vision
  • Tiredness
  • Thirst
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom (urination) especially at night 
  • Weight loss or gain 
  • Frequent infections 
  • Numbness, pain or tingling in feet 

You are more at risk of getting type 2 diabetes if you: 

  • Are over 45 years of age 
  • Have a family history of diabetes 
  • Had diabetes during a pregnancy (gestational diabetes) 
  • Are overweight
  • Are inactive
  • Have high blood pressure/cholesterol

The more risk factors or symptoms that you have the more likely you are to develop diabetes or pre-diabetes. 

Managing your diabetes 

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, treatment involves managing glucose levels to keep these as close to normal levels as possible so between 4-8mmols/L. It can be effectively managed through education, support and adoption of healthy lifestyles (diet, exercise), combined with medication as required. Evidence exists that type 2 diabetes can be prevented, and that remission of type 2 diabetes may be possible for some people.

Visit our website www.diabetes.ie to assess your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Ireland have lots of supports available for people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes www.diabeteseducation.ie

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