Dr Libby Dowling, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, explains: “We know that if you have diabetes you are more likely to develop other health problems later on in life. But we also know that the better you manage the condition the lower the chances of this happening.

“It’s important to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 the body stops making insulin – the hormone that helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels. There is nothing you can do to prevent it and treatment is with insulin, either through an injection or a pump. Type 2 diabetes is when your body is not making enough insulin or is not using it efficiently. It does not always need to be treated with insulin. Many people with this form of the condition are advised to make lifestyle changes and lose extra weight. Some will need medications, which may, or may not, include insulin.”

Key tips

Dowling says that a first step for people diagnosed with diabetes is to seek information and support about how they can look after themselves.

“A healthy lifestyle is crucial, regardless of the type of diabetes. You should have a diet that is low in fat, salt and sugar and that includes at least five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. You don’t have to eliminate sugar completely,” says Dowling.

Regular exercise is also crucial, for good glucose control and to maintain a healthy weight. This is especially important for type 2 diabetes, which has been linked to obesity and inactivity.

“Everybody should engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, at least five days a week,” says Dowling. “Moderate activity is when you breathe faster, but you can still hold a conversation. There is no need to start strenuous exercise. It’s usually enough to make simple changes, like walking at a brisk pace, doing light gardening work, parking farther away from the supermarket’s door, and taking the stairs instead of the lift. And you can break the 30 minutes into 10-minute bouts.”

In addition, if you have type 1 diabetes, it’s important to monitor what you eat and the physical activity you do, because these will affect your insulin needs, and because, by doing so, your blood glucose will be less likely to go too low or too high.

Whatever the type of diabetes, a healthy lifestyle is key to living life to the full.