Diabetes

Of the four million people with diabetes in the UK, 90% have type 2, and that’s preventable. Small changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes significantly.

Explore this guide to find out if you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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Learn more about diabetes

In this guide we give you clear information about the causes of type 2 diabetes, the symptoms you might experience, and the risk factors you need to look out for.

  • What is diabetes?

    You’ve probably heard of diabetes, but what exactly is it?

    The energy we use every day comes from glucose, a form of sugar. We get that glucose from the food and drinks we consume each day.

    In simple terms, diabetes is a condition where your blood contains too much glucose because your body doesn’t know how to use it properly. This can be due to your pancreas not producing any (or enough) insulin to help glucose enter your body’s cells. Or it could be because the insulin your body is producing isn’t working properly. 

  • Types of diabetes

    There are two types of diabetes.
     
    Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs because your body doesn't produce any insulin. This means it needs regular insulin treatment to keep your glucose levels normal. There’s no way to prevent type 1 diabetes and researchers don’t know exactly what causes it. But it may be due to your genetic makeup or be the result of a viral infection. 
     
    Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is when your body doesn’t have enough insulin, or when the insulin is there but isn’t doing its job. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. 

    Although type 2 more commonly affects people over 40, it’s becoming increasingly common among younger people. Even children are beginning to develop it. 
  • What are the symptoms of diabetes

    Type 2 diabetes often develops slowly, perhaps even over years, and your symptoms can also appear gradually. In fact at diagnosis, people who have type 2 diabetes may show few to no symptoms. It is quite common to be diagnosed during a medical exam for something else.

    These are common symptoms of type 2 diabetes:

    • feeling tired during the day, particularly after eating
    • frequently feeling hungry, especially after you have just eaten
    • routinely feeling thirstier than you used to
    • urinating more often than normal, particularly during the night
    • noticing your cuts or wounds take longer to heal
    • experiencing unexplained and sudden weight loss or lower muscle mass
    • having blurred vision
    • having itchy skin
  • Are you at risk of developing diabetes?

    Anyone can develop diabetes. But there are factors that can make you more susceptible to it than others.
     
    Your gender. You’re more at risk of developing diabetes if you’re a man. According to an NHS study, men are 34% more likely to have diabetes than women. 
     
    Your ethnicity. Ethnicity also plays a role. If you’re of South Asian, African-Caribbean or Black African descent, you’re two-to-four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
     
    Your family history. You have a higher chance of developing diabetes if someone in your family already has it. 
     
    Your body shape. If you have excess weight around your middle, your risk of developing diabetes is increased.

    Lifestyle factors: An unhealthy diet, being overweight, smoking and sitting down for much of the day are all things that can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Next steps

Look at our action plan to find out about the lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.