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Don't get the recommended amount of exercise? You could be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Sinead Powell from Diabetes Ireland outlines the risk factors and symptoms of diabetes, and how to manage the condition.

DIABETES TYPE 1 and type 2 are both on the increase in Ireland.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition and it cannot be prevented. The prevalence of type 1 diabetes is on the rise and is typically diagnosed in childhood.

But when we talk of the diabetes epidemic, we are specifically referring to type 2, as it’s linked to lifestyle, especially being overweight and inactive.

We do not have a diabetes register in Ireland but we estimate that there are approximately 225,800 people living with the condition and roughly 90% of these have type 2 diabetes.

According to the Healthy Ireland survey, 854,165 adults over 40 in the Republic of Ireland are at increased risk of developing (or have) type 2 diabetes.

More alarmingly, there are a further 304,382 in the 30 – 39 year age group that are overweight and not taking the weekly 150 minutes recommended physical activity, leaving them at an increased risk of chronic ill-health.

This means that there are over one million adults in Ireland that need to consider making changes to their daily behaviours in terms of eating healthily and being more active.

Diagnosing diabetes

Knowing the symptoms and risk factors for type 2 diabetes is important, as non-diagnosis can seriously affect your quality of life. Undiagnosed or poorly-controlled diabetes can damage your heart, arteries, eyes, nerves and kidneys, leading to serious health problems.

You are more at risk of getting type 2 diabetes if you are:

  • Over 40 years of age
  • Have a parent or brother/sister with diabetes
  • Had diabetes during a pregnancy
  • Are overweight for your height
  • Do not take 30 minutes of physical activity daily
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol

The symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom (urination), especially at night
  • Rapid and unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness, pain or tingling in your hands or feet

The symptoms are also similar for type 1 diabetes, although you are more likely to experience type 1 at a young age.

Diabetes Ireland Diabetes Ireland

The more risk factors or symptoms that you have the more likely you are to develop diabetes or pre-diabetes. Visit our website to take the test to assess your risk and also to see the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Speak to your GP and tell them why you think you may have diabetes. A simple diabetes test will ease any worries you may have.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, don’t worry. Your doctor will take steps to treat and control your condition. Early detection, effective treatment and good control will help you avoid the more serious health related problems of diabetes and allow you to maintain your quality of life.

Managing your Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, treatment involves managing glucose levels to keep these as close to normal levels as possible.

This is done through a combination of insulin, healthy foods and activity for type 1 diabetes.

For type 2, managing glucose levels involves lifestyle management. This includes weight loss if overweight, by reducing portions and choosing healthier foods, and increasing activity. If blood glucose levels remain too high, medications and/or insulin may also be required.

There are numerous booklets available from Diabetes Ireland on the website which explain the condition, how to manage it and how to avoid the complications associated with poor control of glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.

For people at high risk of developing, and for those who have, type 2 diabetes, Diabetes Ireland recently launched an online education course called Diabetes Smart which is intended to provide you with the knowledge you require to make healthy lifestyle changes today.

Type 2 diabetes is a manageable condition, but the best way to manage it is to try to reduce your risk of developing it in the first place.

Sinead Powell is a dietitian and the Northeast regional development officer with Diabetes Ireland. For more information visit the Diabetes Ireland website or lo-call 1850 909 909.

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