A disease once afflicting the middle-aged now on the rise in children, according to the Local Government Association.
Most of us know that unhealthy lifestyles can cause all sorts of problems, from putting on weight and lack of energy to heart disease and cancer. Another disease that is on the rise is Type 2 diabetes.
Ninety per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2 as opposed to Type 1, which is an auto-immune condition where the body cannot produce insulin. We still don’t know why.
In Type 2, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or the insulin it makes doesn’t work properly. Diabetes UK says up to 58% of Type 2 cases could be delayed or prevented by lifestyle choices.
Both types cause glucose levels to rise in the blood, causing hyperglycaemia, which can damage the vessels that supply blood around the body.
We’re more at risk from developing Type 2 diabetes as we get older. White people are more likely to develop it from age 40, according to the charity Diabetes UK, but you’re two to four times more likely to develop it if you are African-Caribbean, black African or south Asian. It’s also likely to develop much earlier in these people, from the age of 25. Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness in people of working age in the UK.
But where the disease might once have been considered a middle-aged or at least adult one, last year the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, found an increase of 14% in cases among children.
It said there were more than 600 in 2015-2016 – and as these are only the ones who received treatment, the number is likely to be far higher.
The LGA called it a ‘hugely disturbing trend’ and ‘one of the biggest public health challenges the country faces’.
Eighteen months ago, the government published its childhood obesity action plan to reduce the rate of childhood obesity, which is the single greatest factor causing Type 2 diabetes, within the next ten years.
Two major policies announced were to encourage industry to slash the amount of sugar they put in food and drinks, and to encourage school children to eat more healthily and stay active.
It’s too early to say whether these policies have had the desired effect.
Reverse the symptoms with healthy eating – it doesn’t have to cost the earth
Unfortunately for we sweet-toothed couch potatoes, the only way to put this disease in remission is to ditch our unhealthy lifestyles – but that doesn’t mean total abstinence. It just means more control and more exercise. And the amazing thing about setting out on a healthier path is that once you’re on it the benefits will become apparent almost immediately: from feeling more energetic, to sleeping better, seeing better skin and gradually deflating that spare tyre. (Another risk factor is having too much weight around the midriff, experts have discovered.)
So choose lower-fat foods and drinks and eat more wholegrain bread and cereals; start lowering your cake intake immediately and start grilling or poaching instead of deep-fat frying or even roasting.
Try and keep chips and ice cream to an absolute minimum and if you do eat them lay off the accompanying sauces, or throw in a side of peas with your chips and fresh strawberries with ice cream.
If you think the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables is an obstacle, did you know that frozen goods are just as nutritious but half the price?
Scientists and nutritionists have found that because fruit and vegetables are picked and processed at their peak, they are frozen in that condition and most of the nutrients remain intact. Fresh foods that sit on the shelves for a couple of days can lose their nutrients more quickly.
Yet a bag of mixed frozen fruit will cost you far less than a fresh punnet of one type, and that goes for all the vegetables too.
If you suspect you have diabetes, the first test your GP will carry out is a urine test, according to the NHS.
If glucose is found in your urine, you will under go a glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) test to see if you have diabetes. If you have, your blood will be regularly tested in this way to see how well you are managing to control it.
Various drugs may also be prescribed to assist your body in the production of insulin.
Common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes*
- Losing weight
- Blurred vision
- Itching around the genitals, often getting thrush
- Urinating a lot, especially at night
- Feeling thirsty and tired
- Any wounds healing slowly
*Not everyone will notice symptoms
Potential health complications of diabetes
• Loss of vision
• Kidney failure
• Heart attack
• Lower limb amputation