New analysis by Diabetes UK shows that the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has soared by 59.8 per cent in a decade which is an increase of more than 1.2 million adults since 2005. These figures also don’t take into account the estimated 590,000 adults with undiagnosed diabetes in 2013-2014.
What actually is diabetes?
Much of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, to provide energy for our bodies. To enable the glucose to enter our cells, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Diabetes occurs when the body either does not make enough insulin or is unable to use its own insulin as well as it should. This results in a build-up of excess sugars in the blood, which ultimately can be harmful to health. There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 usually appears before the age of 40 and develops when the insulin producing cells have been destroyed. It is treated with insulin, a healthy diet and regular exercise and the reasons for levels of Diabetes Type 1 rising are not understood. Type 2 usually appears in people aged over 40 and develops when the body does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not work properly and roughly 90% of these new cases are Type 2. It is treated with a healthy diet, weight loss and regular exercise although medication may also be required. Type 2 diabetes is largely avoidable but is becoming increasingly prevalent, mainly because of excess body weight and in particular excessive VISCERAL fat which is the fat deposited in and around the organs. All Preventicum Check Ups now include a measure for visceral fat area using our Inbody Composition analyser and we also check fasting blood sugar levels to look for diabetes and pre- diabetes.
It is estimated that around 90% of Type 2 diabetes could be prevented by a healthy lifestyle and keeping body weight under control. Long-term, diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and lower extremity amputations (up to 135 foot amputations are performed every week across the country), so early diagnosis is key. Many people may also have pre-diabetes where glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Those concerned have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and are also at risk of heart disease. However, intervention at this stage can delay or even prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. With diabetes medication accounting for 10% of the NHS drugs bill and the disease costing nearly £10 billion a year, prevention and management is key.
There are known risk factors for diabetes, which are: family history of Type 2 diabetes (parent or sibling) being abdominally overweight,(high visceral fat levels) being diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glycaemia, polycystic ovary syndrome and being overweight (in women), history of gestational diabetes (in women), certain racial ancestry e.g. South Asian.
The signs and symptoms of diabetes are: increased thirst, frequent bathroom visits to pass urine, especially at night, extreme tiredness, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, genital itching or regular episodes of thrush, slow healing of wounds, numbness and erection problems (in men). It is important to remember however, that the presence of one or more of the risk factors or symptoms above does not mean you necessarily have diabetes. In people with Type 2 diabetes the signs and symptoms may not be so obvious or even non-existent. Therefore, a health assessment can play an important role in early diagnosis and even prevention of Type 2 diabetes. It is frequently possible to reverse the onset of Type 2 diabetes with weight loss and exercise.
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: "Over the past decade, the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has increased by over 1 million people, which is the equivalent of the population of a small country such as Cyprus. With a record number of people now living with diabetes in the UK, there is no time to waste – the government must act now.
“Diabetes already costs the NHS nearly £10 billion a year, and 80 per cent of this is spent on managing avoidable complications. So there is huge potential to save money and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals and services through providing better care to prevent people with diabetes from developing devastating and costly complications.”
Dr Martin McShane, NHS England's Director for Long Term Conditions, said: "These figures are a stark warning and reveal the increasing cost of diabetes.
"We've said it before and we'll say it again, it's time to get serious about lifestyle change."
This is particularly important in a condition which is avoidable in most cases.