Have you been recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or have a friend or relative living with the disease? We reveal everything you need to know.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
According to research published in the Journal Postgraduate Medicine, Type 2 diabetes is a complex metabolic disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. The International Diabetes Federation says that Type 2 Diabetes is a lifestyle-related disease and is generally characterised by insulin resistance, where the body doesn’t fully respond to insulin. Those who are overweight, sedentary, eat an unhealthy diet and have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes are at higher risk.
This can cause:
- High blood sugar levels
- Lack of energy and tiredness
- Frequent urination
- Dry mouth/excessive thirst
- Blurred vision
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
How will I be diagnosed?
You need to see your GP for a urine and blood test. “Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed by detecting persistently high blood levels of glucose and HbA1c, which reflects blood glucose levels over the past three months,” says Dr Melanie Wynne-Jones. “If you have borderline results (known as ‘pre-diabetes’), you should be rechecked annually.”
What happens next?
“You need regular checks on health indicators such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Your kidneys (blood/urine tests), feet, eyes and circulation also have to be checked to see if you need more intensive treatment to prevent complications,” says Dr Wynne-Jones.
“If you’re prescribed tablets or (occasionally) insulin, you need to learn the symptoms of dangerously low blood sugar (sweating, hunger, irritability, confusion and/or unconsciousness), and be cautious on the road if you’re driving. You may consider weight-loss surgery if you’re morbidly obese.”
My children are overweight – are they at risk of Type 2?
The SA Demographic and Health Survey revealed that 22% of preschool children are overweight or obese. As such, it won’t be long before Type 2 diabetes affects more under-18s. Although the sugar tax was implemented in 2018, it’s still too early to tell if it has made a noticeable difference.
How can I cut my risk?
Being at a healthy weight is key. Women should keep their waist circumference below 80cm. Reduce your intake of high-sugar, starchy foods, especially sugary drinks (including fruit juices and smoothies), cakes, sweets and biscuits. Make sure you get moving – 30 minutes five times a week if you can (brisk walking is great), and 10 minutes of standing and stretching for every hour of sitting.
Who’s most likely to be affected?
Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to age, genes, diet, obesity, and lack of exercise. Stress, lack of sleep, and even high noise levels may also contribute. “People from South Asian and Afro-Caribbean ethnic groups are also more likely to develop it,” says Dr Wynne-Jones.
What if I ignore symptoms?
“Diabetes damages small arteries, and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney damage, blindness, and limb gangrene/amputation. Careful monitoring and effective healthy lifestyle changes/treatment are therefore vital,” says Dr Wynne-Jones.
My doctor wants to put me on Metformin. What is it?
“Metformin is one of the main medicines prescribed to treat Type 2 diabetes, especially in overweight patients,” says Dr Sarah Brewer. “It helps to lower blood glucose levels and, while most people tolerate Metformin well, it can cause side effects like abdominal pain. If they do occur, they tend to improve after a day or two, but tell your doctor.”
Can natural cures work?
“Before prescribing any medicines, your doctor may suggest you try natural approaches like improving your lifestyle,” says Dr Brewer. “In this phase, your GP may be willing to support you taking Ayurvedic herbal medicines including bitter melon, fenugreek, amla fruit and turmeric. These can improve insulin release in the pancreas, reduce insulin resistance, and suppress cravings.”