Today is World Diabetes Day, which aims to combat this dangerous disease. Not only is type 2 diabetes severe and life-threatening on its own, but if it is left untreated, it can lead to many serious health complications, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney disease and many more.
The most recent UK figures based on data from the Health Survey for England (HSE) suggest that one in three adults are ‘on the cusp’ of developing type 2 diabetes, as they are living with a condition known as prediabetes, often called borderline diabetes.
Prediabetes: a warning shot
Prediabetes is where blood sugar levels register as higher than usual but are currently lower than the threshold for diagnosing diabetes. This condition is a critical warning sign, as it indicates an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. It is estimated that around up to 10% of people with prediabetes will go on to progress to ‘full-blown’ type 2 diabetes at some point.
Identifying and managing prediabetes is vital. Recent UK research found that women living with prediabetes had more of an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease than men. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and University College London (UCL) analysed data from 427,435 people, split equally between men and women. This included those living with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and those without diabetes.
The study found that the risk of living with raised blood sugar levels is more significant for women with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes than it is for men. Women with prediabetes had a 30 to 50% greater risk of developing CVD compared to women without diabetes. This figure was 30% for men with prediabetes.
Prediabetes: knowing your risk factors
Prediabetes is a state of impaired glucose metabolism, where the body’s cells do not respond to insulin as effectively as they should. This results in higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. Prediabetes is often asymptomatic, meaning it doesn’t produce noticeable symptoms in most cases. However, several risk factors increase the likelihood of developing prediabetes, including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes, and age.
While prediabetes itself may not present obvious symptoms, understanding these risk factors and recognising the early signs of type 2 diabetes is crucial.
- Increased thirst and urination: Excessive thirst (polydipsia) and frequent urination (polyuria) are common early signs of type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar levels cause the kidneys to work harder to filter glucose from the bloodstream, increasing urine production.
- Fatigue: People with type 2 diabetes often experience unexplained fatigue and weakness. This results from the body’s inability to effectively use glucose for energy.
- Unexplained weight loss or gain: Some individuals may experience unintended weight loss, while others may gain weight despite no significant changes in diet or activity. Weight fluctuations can be due to insulin resistance or imbalanced blood sugar levels.
- Increased hunger: Individuals with type 2 diabetes may feel constantly hungry. This is because their cells are not receiving adequate glucose, leading to a perceived need for more food.
- Blurred vision: Elevated blood sugar levels can affect the fluid levels in the eyes, causing temporary vision disturbances. Blurry vision is a common symptom and can improve with proper glucose management.
- Slow wound healing: High blood sugar levels can impair the body’s ability to heal wounds and fight infections. This can lead to delayed wound healing and an increased risk of infections.
- Numbness or tingling: Peripheral neuropathy, a condition that affects the nerves in the extremities, is a common complication of type 2 diabetes. It can result in numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and feet.
- Recurrent infections: People with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes are more susceptible to infections, such as urinary tract infections, skin infections, and yeast infections.
Early detection and intervention are essential to manage and potentially reverse prediabetes or prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes.
Lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress, can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes screening is a blood glucose test and urine analysis to measure blood sugar levels.
If your blood sugar levels are raised, lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing diabetes in the future. At GP London W1 we can help you take proactive steps to protect your health and wellbeing.