Diabetes is one of the fastest growing reasons for illness and death within the developed world. In particular, the quietly dominant and reversible type 2 diabetes has seen staggering growth, with only 1.6 million people diagnosed in 1958 compared to an astonishing 33 million by 2018.
Type 2 diabetes, simply put, is an inefficiency in the body’s ability to utilise sugar and balance the required insulin. Insulin is the hormone that moves the sugars, from food in our diet, from the bloodstream to the cells within the body where it is stored as energy for later use. When someone has type 2 diabetes the body loses the ability to work out how much sugar is in the bloodstream and how much insulin the pancreas should produce to move the sugar supplies to the cells.
Most developed countries in the world are aging populations and the effects of an aging boding are clear to be seen. Age, in itself, does have an effect on the natural signalling within the body, in addition to the lack of activity and increased fat levels on the body are the reasons for this explosion of type 2 diabetes.
Although, lack of activity is not the only reason for a fatter population in the western world, most of the blame must be put on western food and diets filled with processed foods, low quality natural ingredients and over consumption of high glycaemic snack foods. These foods and this typical diet, sadly, also create habits that result in somewhat of a vicious circle. The more high sugar foods you eat, the more your taste buds actually crave those flavours. This pattern has led to food companies needing to sweeten foods that are not naturally sweet to meet consumer taste requirements. This snowball effect is most notably seen in the bread and dairy aisle; products are considerably sweeter than ever before, often hidden under various other tags or ingredients rather than sugar due to out-of-date labelling laws.
We’ve touched upon age yet, surprisingly, aging is not the only issue. We are also seeing more young people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it is now not uncommon to see people in their 40s with this form of diabetes and incurring the problems that accompany it, such as nerve issues, eye defects, poor circulation and cardiovascular disease.
Along with the harm type 2 diabetes causes to the individual, it is also an expense placed on the NHS. On average costing around £10 billion each year to treat it and the complications that come with it including amputations, blindness, kidney failure, stroke treatment and the ongoing testing and monitoring process.
The main thing to understand with type 2 diabetes is that no one is ever born with it, lifestyle choices are the only causation of this form of diabetes. The biggest risk factors include obesity, low fitness levels, poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep. Measuring and understanding what to do about these areas is the key, it is the opportunity of a future where type 2 diabetes is not the killer that it currently is. Within the blood testing service that we offer at Matt Roberts, there are two main numbers that we look at; blood reading – the measure of sugar in the blood at the time of testing and glycated haemoglobin – the measure of glucose stored on the red blood cells within the body. Glycated haemoglobin is a very useful number, it gives us a greater understanding of habits over a period of time, the risk of diabetes or can be an early indicator of a pre-diabetic condition in an individual. As our blood cells stay in the body for up to 12 weeks, if there has been a much greater level of sugar in that time than the amount of insulin required to cope with it, the glucose will stay attached to the red blood cells rather than make its way to the cells.
The good news is, if caught early enough, type 2 diabetes is reversible, with a few simple steps: