Globally, in 2019, 463 million adults had diabetes and this figure is expected to rise to 700million by 2045 (International Diabetes Federation, 2019). 90% of these adults have type 2 diabetes and its incidence is increasing exponentially. But do you know what diabetes is, why the rates of diabetes are increasing, and what you can do to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes? This article aims to explore these questions.
Firstly, what is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which people experience high blood glucose concentrations, hyperglycaemia. This elevation in blood glucose occurs due to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone which is made in the pancreas. Its function is to aid the movement of glucose from the blood into the cell. When the body is resistant to insulin or when insufficient insulin is produced, as is the case in type 1 diabetes or progressive type 2 diabetes, glucose cannot leave our blood and enter our cells. This leads to high blood glucose concentrations.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed by measuring blood glucose concentrations. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes have a slow onset and increase over time. These include thirst, increased urination, fatigue, and blurred vision. Historically, type 2 diabetes was diagnosed in later life, but it is now being diagnosed in younger people and children. Its increasing prevalence and earlier age of onset is related to the high rates of overweight and obesity globally. 80-90% of individuals with type 2 diabetes are overweight (Diabetes UK, 2018). The increasing rates of childhood obesity are therefore leading to earlier onset and diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
The high blood glucose concentration associated with diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels leading too many complications. Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, impaired vision, impaired nerve function, and ulceration of the feet which may lead to amputation. Regulating blood glucose concentrations can help to reduce the risk of these diseases. But how can you do this? Healthy lifestyle changes.
What should you do if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?
Speak to a Registered Dietitian! Changes to diet and physical activity are the first line of treatment for type 2 diabetes which is where a Registered Dietitian will be able to help you. The aim of these interventions is to control your blood glucose levels to reduce the symptoms and complications of diabetes.
Carbohydrate intake is the main contributor to blood glucose levels and therefore it is recommended that type 2 diabetic patients alter their carbohydrate consumption. Reducing carbohydrate intake can help to control blood glucose levels. Additionally, limiting your consumption of fast release carbohydrates such as sugary drinks and snacks, and replacing them with slow-release carbohydrate foods, e.g., wholegrains, can be beneficial. As their name suggests, slow-release carbohydrates are broken down slower in the body and so this will prevent a spike in blood glucose levels. Other dietary considerations include reduced salt and saturated fat intakes and limiting alcohol consumption. These changes can help to control blood glucose, reduce diabetes complications risk, and aid in weight loss, another important component of type 2 diabetes management.
Weight loss will help to reduce blood glucose levels and the risk of diabetes complications. Losing weight and maintaining this weight loss should be a priority for type 2 diabetes patients. Achieving a 5% weight reduction will reduce your risk of complications associated with diabetes and large weight loss of 15% has even been shown to achieve diabetes remission. Dietary changes which can be recommended by a Registered Dietitian can help to achieve this weight loss. Increasing physical activity will also be beneficial. It is recommended that all adults complete at least 150minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise per week along with two strength sessions. Increasing your physical activity will help with weight loss and help to reduce insulin resistance and control blood glucose.
In summary, type 2 diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose concentrations are elevated because of insulin deficiency. It is associated with increased thirst, urination, and fatigue and increased risk of complications such as cardiovascular disease. Importantly, these symptoms and complications can be reduced with weight loss, dietary changes, and increases in physical activity. Therefore, seeking advice from a Registered Dietitian can be helpful either before or after diabetes diagnosis.
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