It can put you at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, loss of vision and even amputation - and it’s on a worrying rise. Diabetes is one of the biggest health threats of our time, with prescriptions for the condition already topping the £1bn mark - and that’s before taking into consideration the costs of complications such as blindness and heart attacks. So what does this mean for your family?
Thursday is World Diabetes Day (WDD), an annual event to raise global awareness of the condition and with a theme this year of ‘The family and diabetes’. Around nine out of 10 people with the condition have Type 2 diabetes, which can be brought on by lifestyle choices such as eating too much and not getting enough exercise, so WDD is a good chance to think about your family’s health and what a diagnosis could mean.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the body produces no insulin - as is the case with Type 1 diabetes - or does not produce enough insulin to send the glucose in our blood into our body cells (Type 2). Type 1 can happen at any age, regardless of lifestyle, and usually comes on suddenly, within a matter of weeks or even days.
Type 2 diabetes tends to affect people over the age of 40, overweight or obese people and those with a family history of the illness. However, as diabetes surges in the UK, it’s increasingly affecting younger adults and even children. WDD was brought about in 1991 in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat diabetes brings and is held on November 14 to mark the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin in 1922.
What are the signs of diabetes?
Blurred vision, nausea and fatigue, needing to go to the loo more frequently and a noticeable change in appetite and thirst are all symptoms of diabetes. However, Type 2 diabetes can go undiagnosed for a long time, as those with the condition do not always experience symptoms. Having regular eye checks is a good idea, as opticians can often spot the early signs of diabetes due to changes in the retina, even though the patient might otherwise feel fine.
Having the right health insurance can lead to quicker diagnosis of diabetes than on the NHS and can also help you access treatment and medication. Activequote product development manager James Howell said: “With one person being diagnosed with diabetes every two minutes and with the condition being the leading cause of blindness in people of working age in the UK*, diabetes is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on families.
“Putting the right family health insurance in place while you’re fit and healthy can provide access to treatment and medication should you be diagnosed with diabetes - as well as helping to prevent complications such as loss of vision, heart attack and stroke before they arise. It’s also advisable to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, check your blood pressure regularly and if you smoke, quit.”
To mark World Diabetes Day, Diabetes UK has a ‘Know your risk’ calculator to help you take preventative steps. You can also read our articles on ways to avoid putting your health at risk and how getting enough sleep can lower your diabetes risk.