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  • Writer's pictureGina

Type 2 Diabetes and why you should take the time to learn if you may have it 3/3

In the previous post we looked at how diabetes is caused, and the effects it can have on you. In our final part, we'll discuss getting a diagnosis for diabetes or prediabetes as well as ways you can help yourself.

Type 2 Diabetes: Part III

Diabetes & Lockdown © 2017

The video above is a few years old but it puts into context how widespread diabetes was globally before coronavirus. The effect of national lockdown in 2020 meant that for thousands in the UK alone, routine diagnoses and blood tests were either postponed or cancelled.

Recent figures estimate some 45,000 diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes were missed between March and July 2020, and diagnoses across the UK were down 70% compared with average rates from the last ten years. The death rates for people with Type 2 diabetes increased by 64.3% when compared to the previous 3 years.

While the tabloids were almost falling over themselves to portray diabetes as sure-fire way to end your days, the fact remains that the outcome for Type 2 diabetics with Covid-19 is lower than for non-diabetics.

While that does sound alarming, remember that being diabetic or even prediabetic doesn't mean you're at a higher risk of catching coronavirus than anyone else.

I might just have a 'little bit' of diabetes...

Your GP should always be your first point of contact if you're concerned about diabetes -and a simple blood test by your GP or practice nurse will be able to tell them if your blood glucose is too high for you.

It's possible that you might not be diabetic, but your blood sugar levels are putting you at higher risk of becoming so. Your GP might refer to it as borderline diabetes, prediabetes or non-diabetic hyperglycaemia but these generally all mean the same thing: greater risk of the disease in the future.

©2021 American Heart Association
How to Manage Blood Sugar

Well there's probably a rational explanation for it...

Diabetes is called a silent killer, largely because it's individual symptoms can be brushed off fairly easily. Feeling tired all the time? It's probably just too many late hours in front of Netflix. Lightheaded before lunchtime? Late night, no breakfast, just working too hard. Jeans too tight lately? Just the effects of Deliveroo and lockdown, it'll be fine. Always feeling the need to urinate? Probably too much coffee, it is a diuretic after all.

And all these things seem just so reasonable when taken in isolation: they all have a fairly easy explanation. However, like your first monthly statement after you switched to contactless or seeing how much you spent on in-app purchases in PUBG, it takes an accumulated shock to make you realise things are already getting out of hand.

Your GP won't be dismissive or angry if you share your concerns - if anything they'll be grateful for the long-term reduction in workload that comes with a patient taking charge of their own health. It may take some time to arrange but it's worth waiting for.

In the meantime, there's a great deal you can do for yourself.

So while I'm waiting for that appointment...

Two of the biggest lifestyle changes you can make for your health are diet and exercise. Exercise is easy enough - it just means moving a little more than you normally do. Diet doesn't have to mean the shame section of Boots or the tasteless meals you find in most supermarkets. It means knowing basic foodstuffs and how and when to eat them.

Here's where a dietician can help you: you can ask your GP for a referral if they have concerns about your diabetes risk. There's a lot of good diets around that have shown impressive results, but they may not work for you. Your body, your lifestyle and your mindset all need to be taken into account when you think of diet or exercise.

Educating yourself about types of foods is always a good start: the site has some excellent starting advice about food groups and you should try to learn a little more about food-labelling and how to read the actual makeup of the food that you eat.

You can experiment with different foods, ways of cooking and combining that appeal to you rather than insist on steaming/juicing etc. Recognise almost all foods have a place in your diet and understand how your mind and body react to them. The key is always moderation rather then going from one extreme to another.

What else can I do?...

A good-quality blood-glucose monitoring system is a worthwhile purchase for any household. You can find one at your local chemist or online, and a starter kit will come with test strips and a reader device. It's worth testing yourself before and after meals for a few days to give yourself an idea of how your body reacts to different types of food at different times.

AbrahamthePharmacist © 2018

If you're a runner or do regular workouts at home, you may even want to see how your blood is pre-and post-workout. A diary of your recordings will be invaluable to your GP. Just make sure that you don't buy too many test strips at once as they have a relatively short shelf life and the machine may discard them.

Lockdown is going to make things tough for us as the weeks go on. The temptation to hide indoors with 'essential supplies', coupled with cold weather and restricted activities is leading to more and more people at risk of diabetes - and more diagnoses are being missed.

That doesn't mean you need to cut out everything you enjoy and start running endless laps of Victoria Park. Moderate increases in physical activity and taking a little time to learn about the foods you eat and the effects they have on your body will make for an excellent starting point in your healthcare journey.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia © FX Networks 2012

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