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Diabetes Essentials marks World Diabetes Day - Monday 14 November

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This is the day the International Diabetes Federation encourages the world to focus on diabetes.

Diabetes is a condition which gets lots of media attention; we have weekly headlines on causes of diabetes, cost of diabetes and cures for diabetes; the majority of these being sensationalised headlines to grab our attention, loosely based on facts.

Many of the headlines focus on the negative side of diabetes. Media attention to increase awareness of diabetes and how much we can do to manage the condition is great. However, often these headlines are scaremongering and it is important that rather than feeling that there is no hope once diagnosed with diabetes, to recognise that there are lots of positive steps that can be taken to successfully manage diabetes.

To start, let’s separate type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the two major types of diabetes. Often the two get combined and in certain ways they do require similar considerations. However, the causes of the two and in certain ways, the way they are treated, are very different.

Insulin is a hormone produced from the beta cells of our pancreas; it helps our body use glucose to give us energy. When we eat carbohydrates, they get broken down to glucose (or sugar) and insulin moves the glucose from our blood into our cells, to be used as energy.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, which means the body has destroyed its own insulin producing cells.  Someone with Type 1 diabetes does not produce any insulin (they need to inject insulin or get insulin via a pump to survive). The exact reason the body destroys its own cells is not known, but it has nothing to do with what we eat or the activity we do. This is very different from Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the insulin producing cells in the body do not produce enough insulin or the insulin which is produced does not work properly (it is called insulin resistance when the insulin does not work properly). Our genes do play an important part in our risk of type 2 diabetes, as does our lifestyle.

With regards to type 2 diabetes, research shows that the majority of cases could be prevented or delayed by changes to the things we do every day, such as changes to what we eat, how active we are and making sure we watch our weight.

World Diabetes Day has two key themes this year

  • A focus on the screening for type 2 diabetes to ensure early diagnosis of the condition
  • A focus on screening for complications in all types of diabetes.

Focus on screening

Many people with type 2 diabetes do not realise they have it. Every day in England one person gets diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every 3 minutes or 700 people every day.

 In Western Cheshire 13,452 people are registered as having Type 2 diabetes; this is 6 out every 100 people who live here.

Across England another 500,000 people with type 2 diabetes are thought to have the condition but it has not been diagnosed yet, that is to say, they have Type 2 diabetes but do not realise. Very often Type 2 diabetes is only noticed because a blood test is done for other reasons, such as routine tests showing a high blood sugar or symptoms of diabetes such as tiredness, poor wound healing or need to pass urine more often, especially at night, or through screening.

It is ok to feel overwhelmed if you are diagnosed with diabetes. Please remember there is a lot that you can do to manage type 2 diabetes; day to day changes to become more active and eat more healthily helps with diabetes management, as does losing weight.  There are fantastic supports available to help you to do all of these.

Locally in Western Cheshire, Diabetes Essentials is available to support you to manage your condition. Diabetes Essentials is a free NHS service available to people registered to a Western Cheshire GP.

So how do you find out if you have or are a risk of developing Type 2 diabetes?

The NHS Health Check is a great way of identifying those at high risk of type 2 diabetes. It is open to adults between 40-75 years old. It identifies early signs of Type 2 diabetes and also heart disease, kidney disease and dementia. The risk of diabetes increases with age, therefore regular screening throughout these years is important to pick up on the condition as soon as possible.  (You are invited every 5 years to have you health check).

Along with type 2 diabetes, it is thought that 5 million people in England have blood glucose levels higher than normal, but not yet in the range of type 2 diabetes, this condition is known as Borderline Diabetes. This can progress onto type 2 diabetes. But if you get this diagnosis you will be supported to change that picture.

What if I am diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes Essentials is a 2.5 hour group session, offered on a choice of days and in a variety of locations across Chester, Ellesmere Port and the surrounding areas. The session aims to give people with Type 2 diabetes the chance to learn more about diabetes and the time and opportunity to learn from a health care professional specialising in diabetes. There is support from other people in the group about their experience of living with diabetes and it is important to know you are not alone in this.

What if I am diagnosed with Borderline diabetes or at high risk of Type 2 diabetes?

If you are told you have Borderline diabetes, or are at high risk of type 2 diabetes, there are also lots of things you can do to prevent or delay your progression to type 2 diabetes. Large research studies have shown that lifestyle changes can massively reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes or delay the progression to type 2 diabetes.

Borderline Diabetes Essentials a two hour group session which explains this condition and what changes will help you. There is practical support to help you manage and also advice on other supporting organisations that can help you.

Diabetes is a condition that for the people living with it, they are managing it every minute of every day. Diabetes Essentials is your local service to help support you, to make sure you have the correct information about diabetes and give you the confidence to know you can manage it yourself. 

It is your health, it is you that is living with diabetes; you need to be in control of your condition.

How can I attend Diabetes Essentials?

If you would like to attend one of the sessions please call Therapy Services on 01244 365 234 or email Diabetes.essentials@nhs.net

This is a self-referral service; you do not need to be referred. However speak to your healthcare professional if you want more information; they can refer you if you prefer.

Type 2 diabetes:  Top tips on risk

  • Make use of the NHS Health Check to find out if you are at risk of diabetes
  • Be aware of symptoms of diabetes (extreme thirst, needing to pass urine more often, tiredness, repeated infections, poor wound healing or unintentional weight loss)
  • Be active
  • Eat Well
  • Aim for a healthy weight (or if your overweight, try to lose some)

 Like our Diabetes Essentials Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/DiabetesEssentials/ 

About the Author

Susan is a Dietitian with the Diabetes Essentials service at The Countess of Chester Hospital 

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