Diabetes prevention - check your risk, make some positive changes - your health is so important!
So, I like to see what prevention weeks or months are held in the UK in order to provide awareness. I feel this is important for health promotion, education and care. Week commencing 16th April was Diabetes Prevention Week which involved myself and others taking to social media to provide awareness. There’s only so much you can put on a social media post though and I feel preventing diabetes is something worth talking about - a major priority!
Hence why I’ve decided to write a bit about preventing diabetes, in particular type 2. ❓ What is it? ❓ What are the risk factors? ❓ Typical symptoms? ❓ How can we change our lifestyles to aid prevention? ❓What’s the link between diabetes and feet?
Hopefully I haven’t lost you already, so please carry on downwards for some useful info, which also can be helpful for other health problems.
Now for the intro......
When we look at preventing diabetes, we are generally looking at type 2 diabetes, which in most situations is instigated by our lifestyle choices. Around 200,000 people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes every year! It can affect people of all ages.
We put ourselves more at risk if we have a poor diet, smoke, drink alcohol, exercise little or not at all and have little sleep. Looking at those unhealthy choices makes us realise they can affect our overall health, so surely it’s worthwhile making some positive lifestyle changes! I know it certainly encourages me to want to make some changes for sure as I recognise how each of the aforementioned can impact upon my future!
It’s not all that bad though!!!.........The good news is there are ways to prevent type 2 diabetes (in some cases).
So, what exactly is type 2 diabetes?
You may know someone who has this, maybe a close friend, a family member or a colleague? I know a few people sadly who have diabetes. If you do too, do you know much about it and how it can affect someone?
Type 2 diabetes is where the body is unable to metabolise glucose (a simple sugar), resulting in high blood glucose levels. The body is unable to use the insulin it has produced, hence the term insulin resistance, although in some situations, the body is unable to produce enough insulin.
Organs may become damaged over time if there are high levels of blood glucose, hence the importance of prevention.
Staying well is important for those with type 2 diabetes, monitoring blood sugar levels to prevent worsening, thus preventing the requirement for long term medication.
Symptoms The most common for type 2 (although type 1 can also present in a similar way) are:
Excessive thirst and frequent urination - you may notice that you are more thirsty than usual (to a more excessive point) and needing to go to the toilet more often.
Increased appetite – you may notice the hunger doesn’t go away even if you eat more food.
Extreme tiredness - You may notice increased tiredness, maybe more than usual.
There are various influences which can put us at risk of type 2 diabetes. The below shows some of these risks: - lack of exercise - smoking and drinking alcohol - being overweight - poor diet - having high cholesterol or high blood pressure - coming from an African-Caribbean or South Asian origin
- if either or both parents has type 2 diabetes we may be more at risk
Looking at the above makes me even more aware of the fact that our bodies need some much needed care!
Taking control – type 2 diabetes prevention!
1. Firstly, check your risk!
I found a handy risk tool here https://riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/start which can be used to highlight a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years. To note: this is not a diagnostic tool and medical advice should be sought from a relevant health professional.
2. Get more active.
As per my other blog post ‘Keeping fit and your feet...’ www.themobilefootclinic.net/blog...there are so many benefits you can get from walking! Or partaking in any other type of exercise for that matter.
- we can lower our risk of being overweight / obese / weight problems
- it’s good for our physical and mental health. Just think about it, if you are feeling low, getting out for some fresh air and exercise can make you feel a lot better. It can also help to relieve stress. You could have a mindful walk, taking into account all the senses around you, e.g., rustling leaves, the smell of fresh grass, thus helping to relieve anxiety symptoms
- it can help to lower our risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (it can help to lower blood sugar and boost sensitivity to insulin, hence keeping blood sugar within a normal range)
- it can help to reduce lower back pain
- it helps to lower blood pressure
See the below image - I’m sure I’ve sold the benefits to you :)
As I always advise however, do consult your GP prior, especially if you haven’t taken part in any form of exercise for some time or you have a medical condition.
Remember, moving about a little bit more instead of being sedentary can make a big difference. Being active doesn’t have to mean doing a 5 mile run or a hike, it could be taking part in a session at your local gym such as bums and tums classes or going swimming.
Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise / activity 5 days a week. Get out for that bike ride or you could try yoga to improve your muscle strength. There's bound to be some classes in your area.
There’s some great apps out there which you can put on your iPad or a google device, including :
- the Active 10 app which is great if you haven’t much time, as even a ten minute brisk walk can be beneficial. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/active10/home#rlEqbAqxMVAYyKSB.97
- the Couch to 5k app is a good motivator https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx
- there’s a whole 12 week programme here with the NHS too https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/12-week-fitness-plan.aspx
I can personally recommend all 3 of the above apps, especially the 12 week programme as there's some great motivational ideas to keep you going! Variation is good.
I have some additional helpful ideas on my other blog post ‘Keeping fit and your feet...’ www.themobilefootclinic.net/blog ....re getting fit, also setting challenges for yourself as it’s good to have goals. Try getting active with other family members and friends for a bit more motivation.
3. Change your diet - eat healthy, nutritious food!
Having a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet is good for our overall health and in particular, reducing our risk of type 2 diabetes.
Bear in mind, portion control is helpful and the diabetes.org.uk website gives some helpful ideas re portion sizes: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Enjoy-food/Eating-with-diabetes/portion-sizes
Portion sizes need to be individualised as we are all made differently. Our activity levels, age, gender, etc., need to be taken into account. The aforementioned website looks at portion sizes with respect to fruit and vegetables, starchy food such as potatoes, dairy, fish, meat nuts, eggs, pulses and beans - all of which contribute to a healthy diet.
There’s also some great recipe ideas here https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/recipes - with those who have type 1 or 2 in mind.
And find some helpful meal plans here https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Enjoy-food/Eating-with-diabetes/Meal-plans-
Your healthy eating plan would best be varied to keep you going.
Come on, make some dietary changes, what have you got to lose!
4. Lose extra weight
Your health can greatly improve for each pound you lose! If you are overweight it’s a good idea to lose some of that excess weight.
Have a spare tyre?
Bear in mind, if you carry weight around your middle this will make it more difficult for your body to control blood sugar levels. A good start is by measuring your waist circumference – find some helpful tips here re how and why to do this - https://www.diabetes.org.uk/preventing-type-2-diabetes/waist-measurement
Reducing your waist measurement is another risk prevention strategy – get moving, eat more healthier food.
The prior discussed prevention tips are a great way to help you to lose weight, however your GP can also be helpful in advising on programmes and specialists you could link in with. For example, some NHS trusts run programmes - https://preventing-diabetes.co.uk/ otherwise, maybe you need a dietitian or exercise specialist who your GP could refer you to.
I know that Sunderland NHS trust has a specialist weight management programme which can be accessed via self-referral (0191 5699912), otherwise through your GP. This is open to those over the age of 16 and who are concerned about their weight. The programme will allow you to meet others in a similar situation and you will learn about different topics such as how to lose weight healthily and how to eat in a healthy way, etc.
So why is a Podiatrist promoting type 2 diabetes prevention?
Well, if you have diabetes then you are more at risk of developing foot problems.
Diabetes can affect the feet in various ways, including reducing the blood flow (circulation) to the feet which can affect the wound healing process and our ability to resist infection. Cuts and sores may take longer to heal. You may notice pain and cramps in your legs or feet.
Diabetes may cause nerve damage which can cause a loss of sensation in the feet. Raised blood sugar (glucose) can impair the sensation in your feet. The lack of feeling is called diabetic neuropathy. I found a handy resource to test the sensitivity in your feet - https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/feet/touch-the-toes.
Get your feet checked and take care of them!
Not taking care of your feet or avoiding getting any foot problems tended to by a foot specialist such as a podiatrist may lead to further complications such as infections, foot ulcers and even more frightening....amputation (shockingly there are approximately 160 amputations a week in the UK due to diabetes)!
Please head to my other blog post....’9 top tips to protect your feet if you have diabetes.’
https://www.themobilefootclinic.net/single-post/2018/01/03/Top-tips-to-protect-your-feet-if-you-have-diabetes for some helpful diabetic foot care tips and my general foot care top tips page too https://www.themobilefootclinic.net/top-tips-for-foot-health
Through proper foot care most foot problems can actually be prevented - check them daily. And as per my other blog, get your feet checked by a health professional annually. An annual check can be useful as your level of risk will be assessed which will show your vulnerability to foot problems. I find this handy guide useful, showing what to expect at an annual check - https://diabetes-resources-production.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/diabetes-storage/migration/pdf/0997B_PFF_What%2520to%2520Expect_A5%2520leaflet_web_Dec23.pdf
As you have probably gathered already, I have a passion about helping people with chronic health conditions to feel just that little better. Head here for more info re chronic health conditions I work with.
I hope the above encourages you to make some healthy lifestyle changes. It's going to be worthwhile in the long run, for not only diabetes prevention, but also for your overall health. I have already made some positive changes to my diet and also I am getting out and about walking more and using my treadmill.
What have you got to lose? What changes will you make?
Lynn, Podiatrist xx