Douglas Twenefour, Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, explains: “A timely diagnosis is the first important step towards good diabetes control. Patients can start managing their blood glucose early in the condition through dietary and lifestyle changes, delaying the need for medication and reducing their risk of developing complications like cardiovascular, eye and kidney disease.”

 

Often undetected

People should suspect Type 2 diabetes if they experience increased thirst and frequent urination, unintentional weight loss, excessive tiredness, recurrent infections, and wounds that don’t heal, says Twenefour.

“These symptoms can linger on for quite a while – to the extent that some people can go for over ten years without being diagnosed. It is estimated that 630,000 individuals in the UK have the condition but don’t know it. Of those who have Type 2 diabetes, 50 per cent already show signs of complications at the point of diagnosis.”

 

Key dietary and lifestyle recommendations

Twenefour says that a healthy diet is crucial in maintaining blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. Key recommendations include losing excessive weight; watching portion sizes; limiting the consumption of salt, fat (especially saturated ones), and sugary foods like chocolate and cakes; choosing more whole grains and fruit and vegetables; and having regular meals to reduce the need to reach out for high-calorie snacks.

Non-nutritive sweeteners can be a useful adjunct to a patient’s diet, making meals tastier without affecting blood glucose or weight. In contrast, so called ‘diabetic foods’ are not recommended, as they don’t provide any health benefit, are usually high in fat, can have a laxative effect, and are expensive.

As for lifestyle, it is vital to avoid unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, and to exercise regularly, which is known to improve insulin sensitivity and, in turn, blood glucose control.

 

Get a Type 2 diabetes risk assessment

Twenefour points out that the above recommendations are also important to prevent Type 2 diabetes in the first place. “People can have their risk of developing the condition assessed by a healthcare professional or through web-based questionnaires like the one offered by Diabetes UK,” he adds.

“We encourage everybody to take advantage of this service, so they can make timely dietary and lifestyle changes, if needed, and potentially avoid the condition in the first place.”

 

Take the Diabetes UK risk assessment at www.diabetes.org.uk/risk!