You can check out Diabetes UK for some fun ways of raising awareness for diabetes, such as taking part in their 1 million steps challenge.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes high levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar). We use blood glucose as our main energy source which we get through the foods we eat. Insulin is a hormone that transfers glucose from the food you eat to the cells in your body, it is then converted into energy that can be used.
In some people, the body either doesn't make enough insulin, or it cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. When the body fails to produce/utilise insulin properly, glucose never gets to your cells and ends up staying in the blood. If this happens continuously over time, then you'll end up with far too much glucose in your blood which can lead to health complications.
What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body fails to produce insulin; this is due to the immune system attacking the cells that create insulin within the pancreas. Those with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day; this can be done either through injection or an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes insulin-resistant, or when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin in the body.
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is partly genetic, but lifestyle factors can also increase your risk of developing it, these include:
- Carrying a lot of weight around your stomach area
- Having high blood pressure
- Having a family member who has diabetes
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Being over 40 years old
- Being of South-Asian, African-Caribbean or Black African descent
The link between diet and eye health
Food is a huge factor in supporting our overall health. Consuming a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses, and fatty acids will support your eye health and help prevent or control diabetes. With food being such a powerful tool in promoting good health, it’s good to try and eat a broad range of different foods to make sure you’re covering all the nutrition bases.
What is the best diet for diabetics?
Not only will a balanced diet keep your eyes healthy, but it can also help people with diabetes to manage their symptoms. Foods rich in beta carotene (orange foods like carrots and oranges) convert into vitamin A which can help prevent eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Foods containing essential fatty acids are also great for helping with symptoms of dry eye. Check out our previous blog posts for some delicious, easy recipes for eye health.
Can diabetes cause permanent blindness?
Diabetes that isn’t managed well can lead to blindness, although not directly. Having high blood sugar consistently over time can cause diabetic retinopathy which damages the back of the eye (the retina). If Diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, then it can cause blindness, so it’s best to keep to the recommended daily sugar intake where possible. Unmanaged diabetes can also lead to cataracts and glaucoma.
How does diabetes affect the eyes?
Diabetics are more at risk of having complications with their eyes. Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in the UK. Those who have the disease are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy which is caused by high blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can damage the retina, blocking the blood vessels that go to the eye.
Diabetics must have their eyes checked regularly to ensure the eyes remain healthy and disease-free. For people with diabetes, the best way to avoid eye problems is to manage the symptoms of your diabetes by controlling the levels of blood sugar and going for regular check-ups, both for the body and the eyes.
Can diabetes be reversed?
Although there is no cure, people with type 2 diabetes can reverse their condition with lifestyle changes. By becoming more active and eating a broader range of nutrient-dense foods, symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be managed and even reversed, allowing anyone who lives with the condition to have normal blood sugar levels without the need for medication.
It’s important to note that diabetes can be put into remission and effectively reversed, but that does not mean the condition has disappeared. It is possible to go many years with healthy, working blood sugar levels and then experience diabetic symptoms.
How can I prevent diabetes?
Luckily, leading a balanced and healthy lifestyle is the best way to avoid diabetes. Here are some ways to prevent getting the condition:
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid alcohol
- Keep within the recommended daily sugar limit
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains
- Avoid stress
- Get enough sleep