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Diabetes and national awareness

Posted in Personal Health 16 Nov, 2012

Held every year on the 14th November, World Diabetes Day has grown from modest beginnings, to become a global celebrated phenomenon that has successfully helped to increase the public’s awareness of diabetes. The campaign, which now has come to an end until at least next year, comprised of various campaigns, advertisements, and talks, all which proved to be internationally effective in spreading and bringing forth the message of diabetes to the public’s consciousness

Organised by the International Diabetes Federation, (IDF) this year’s particular theme focused on Diabetes “Education and Prevention”. Hence the campaign’s slogan of “Diabetes: protect our future”, focused on recognising the warning signs, helped raise awareness and promote action to reduce the main risk factors of the condition. Yet despite the success of the campaign, diabetes still continues to be problematic to an unsuspecting public.

Diabetes in the UK

According to the NHS, Diabetes affects almost 3 million people in the UK, of which roughly 90% will have type2 diabetes. This figure is estimated to rise to 5 million by 2025, thus nearly 10% of the population will be affected by the condition. There are two main types of diabetes referred to as type 1 and type 2. Type 1 referred to as insulin-dependent, usually occurs in young people and is when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Type2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function or react probably, what is known as insulin resistance. Type2 diabetes is known to usually affect people over the age of 40, and is common amongst certain ethnic groups. Studies have shown however that type 2 diabetes and diet are intrinsically linked. So the sudden rise of type2 diabetes increasingly affecting more children and young people is shocking.

Spotting the symptoms

Perhaps what is more alarming is that there are thought to be around 850,00 people with undiagnosed diabetes. To make matters worse, early symptoms of diabetes, especially type2 can be subtle, harmless or in most cases may not even appear at all. After years of having the condition, during that time a person may not experience any diabetic symptoms, which could create further health complications. Common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst and increased urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Tingling hands and feet
  • Slow healing wounds/ skin infection
  • Experiencing regular bouts of thrush
  • Itching around the genital area.

It is important therefore, that symptoms of the condition are recognised as if left untreated type2 diabetes could create a variety of health problems that include, heart disease and stroke, nerve damage, kidney disease, foot problems, sexual dysfunction, retinopathy, and in pregnant women an increased risk of miscarriage and still birth.

Diabetes and obesity

Studies have shown that of the people that have been diagnosed with type2 diabetes, around 80-90% have also been diagnosed as clinically obese. Being overweight puts extra and unnecessary tension on the body to maintain proper glucose levels. It can also make your body resistant to insulin, which in the long run can ultimately cause you to develop the condition. Worryingly recent statistics have shown that 25% of young boys and 33% of young girls aged between two and nineteen are overweight or obese.

According to the BBC, this is down to a mass of problems from a lack of “education about food, limited cooking skills, and limited money to buy healthier food to longer working hours and marketing campaigns for junk food aimed at kids.” It is a no brainer that something has to be done to prevent the growing numbers of children who are diagnosed as obese, furthermore the link between diabetes and obesity needs to be addressed.

Getting the help that you need

Although diabetes cannot be cured once diagnosed, it is vital that you recognise the symptoms as early as possible. Treatment for diabetes aims to help people with the condition to control their blood glucose levels and minimise the risk of developing further complications. Your health provider will usually encourage lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and losing weight, which will effectively help to manage your diabetes in order to reduce further complications such as a heart disease. Additionally if symptoms worsen, then prescription medication will be needed to help reduce the high levels of blood glucose.

Although I am hugely supportive of campaigns such as World Diabetes Day, which do so much to raise awareness of diabetes to the public, the obesity epidemic particularly in children and subsequent rise of type2 diabetes, a condition generally associated with adults but now affecting more children and young people is concerning. More needs to be done to prevent the next generation to suffer from type2 diabetes, a condition that through early intervention can largely be avoided.

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