Living with Diabetes

Living with diabetes - Health advice

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. We get glucose from starchy foods in our diet such as pasta, bread and cakes.

The hormone insulin is responsible for maintaining the glucose level in the blood. Insulin moves glucose from the blood and stores it in the body's cells where it can be drawn upon for energy. If an individual has diabetes this is because either the body is not making enough insulin or the use of insulin within the body is poor. 


There are 2 main types of Diabetes


Type 1 
Type 1 Diabetes develops if the body cannot produce any insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually appears before the age of 40. It is the least common of the two main types and accounts for around 10 per cent of all people with diabetes.
Type 2
Type 2 Diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance). In most cases this is linked with being overweight. This type of diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40, although in South Asian and African Caribbean people, it often appears after the age of 25.
Recently more children are being diagnosed with the condition, some as young as seven. Type 2 diabetes is the more common of the two main types and accounts for around 90 per cent of people with diabetes. The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes can be reduced by changes in lifestyle.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

The main symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes can include:
  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme tiredness and lethargy
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in feet, hands or legs
  • Sore or burning mouth
In Type 1 diabetes the signs and symptoms are usually very obvious and develop very quickly, typically over a few weeks. The symptoms are quickly relieved once the diabetes is treated and under control.
In Type 2 diabetes the signs and symptoms may not be so obvious, as the condition develops slowly over a period of years. You may therefore be experiencing one or more of these symptoms without associating them with diabetes. 


What is the Impact of Diabetes?

If diabetes is not controlled properly it can lead, longer term, to a number of health complications including increased risk of stroke and heart disease, damage to the retina which could ultimately lead to blindness and it can affect kidney function. It is important to understand where there is a risk of developing diabetes, as action can then be taken to prevent or to reduce the effects of the condition.
Preventable risk factors:
These risk factors can increase your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes but you can take positive action to reduce them.
  • Being overweight: Three in five adults in the UK are overweight
  • Lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking and alcohol consumption

Non preventable risk factors:

  • Age: As we age, the risks of developing diabetes increase, reaching a peak in people aged 65-74. However, a healthy lifestyle can help to reduce the risks
  • Ethnic background: If you are from a South Asian background such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, or an African or African Caribbean background you may have a greater risk of developing diabetes
  • Family history: If you have a history of diabetes in your family, you may be more at risk of developing diabetes yourself


How can I prevent Diabetes?


Smoking, whilst not a direct cause of diabetes, is the biggest preventable risk factor for cardio vascular disease, which is closely associated with diabetes. Smokers die on average 14 years prematurely. For advice of how to stop smoking please visit our Stopping Smoking page.


A recommended healthy diet involves eating:
  • Five portions (or more) of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish (such as Salmon or Mackerel)
  • Less than 6g of salt a day
  • Less than 30g of saturated fat a day (for men) or 20g a day (for women)


The recommended limits for alcohol consumption are:
  • Men and Women - no more than two units a day (14 units a week) 
  • One unit of alcohol is the equivalent of: Half a pint of beer, lager or cider. A pub measure (25ml) of spirits such as vodka, whisky or rum. A small glass of wine (125ml)



Adults should achieve a total of at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity physical
activity on 5 or more days of the week. It does not even have to be 30 consecutive minutes. Three lots of 10 minutes in a day work well enough to get the heart pumping faster and increase your breathing rate.
For example, brisk walking is excellent exercise, costs nothing and is easy for most people to do every day. How about going for a walk before lunch or dinner? You could also try activities like swimming, cycling, gardening, aerobics, jogging, badminton or football.
The best way to become healthier without it becoming a chore is to try and incorporate your excercise into your daily routine by walking to work, getting off the bus a few stops earlier and taking the stairs instead of the lift. Doing this will help you to become fitter, make it easier to manage your weight and will promote a healther heart and circulatory system.
The options are countless. If it is something you enjoy, you are more likely to make it part of your routine. However, if you haven't exercised for a while, seek professional advice first.


If you're concerned about Diabetes ask your local pharmacist about our Diabetes Risk Awareness Service

Diabetes Risk Awareness Service
Diabetes Risk Awareness Service