Did you know that 4.6 million people in the UK are living with diabetes? And over 12 million of us are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It’s something that has often crossed my mind as my Nan has type 2 diabetes. That, together with the fact that I’ve gained some weight over the past couple of years, meant that I was worried I could be at risk of developing the condition.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar we use as a source of energy. Once glucose is released from the food we eat and enters the bloodstream, our body releases a hormone called insulin. People with diabetes will experience abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood. If untreated, the high levels of glucose caused by diabetes can lead to complications with the heart, eyes, feet and kidneys. This is why diagnosis, understanding and treatment of the condition is so important.
Type 2 diabetes
Unlike type 1 diabetes where the body simply doesn’t produce any insulin at all, type 2 diabetes means that the insulin that the body does produce doesn’t work effectively, or doesn’t produce enough of it. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be reversed with a healthy lifestyle.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be less obvious than those of type 1 diabetes, so people often don’t even realise that they have it. Here are a few of the main symptoms…
- Increased thirst
- Passing water more often, especially at night
- Extreme tiredness
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing wounds
- Genital itching and regular instances of thrush
Are you at risk?
If you are concerned that you could be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, getting tested couldn’t be easier. LloydsPharmacy offer free type 2 diabetes screenings, you can book yours here.
Given my family history and worries about my diet and lack of exercise, I was keen to book a type 2 diabetes screening for myself. So last week I went along to my screening appointment at my local LloydsPharmacy branch.
The screening appointment took place in a private consultation room where I was asked a few questions about my diet, exercise and family history of diabetes.
Next, my BMI was calculated by recording my height and weight and then my blood pressure was checked. All of this information was input into the computer system and I was given a risk score of 3. A risk score below 12 means you are at very low risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
I was really pleased with my low risk score, given my initial concerns it was great that I was able to put my mind at rest by attending a short appointment.
Although my risk score was very low, I still opted to have the blood glucose test done for reassurance. This involves pricking your finger and applying a small amount of blood onto a test strip. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite seeing my Nan do this many times I was still a little worried that it might hurt and I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to blood!
Honestly, I found the test to be completely painless and only a tiny drop of blood is taken. So if you’re worried about this, don’t be! It’s absolutely fine and the pharmacist was great, and really helped to make me feel relaxed.
My blood glucose reading came out at 6.4, anything under 6 is normal so my reading was just slightly on the high side. I had eaten a yogurt before going to my appointment so the pharmacist explained that this was most likely the cause of the spike and invited me to go back for a fasting test.
I went back for my fasting test a few days later and made sure that I hadn’t eaten anything for 12 hours before the appointment, to ensure that there would be no spike in my blood glucose reading this time.
The pharmacist went ahead with the blood glucose test just like last time, which again was completely painless and I found I was much more relaxed as I knew exactly what to expect this time.
My fasting blood glucose reading came out at 5.2, which is normal.
The pharmacist explained to me that my result was absolutely normal and that I should be tested again in three years time. He also advised me to continue with my healthy lifestyle in order to keep my risk of developing type 2 diabetes low. He did offer some advice on how to live as healthier life as possible – which foods to eat, which to avoid, making sure I get my heart rate up for at least 15 minutes each day, reduce my alcohol intake etc.
Top tip: Did you know that you should actually eat fruit before a meal? This way your body will absorb all the nutrients from the fruit. If you eat fruit after a meal it can take hours for your food to be digested by which time the sugars in the fruit will have started to ferment.
My husband, James came along to the fasting test with me and because his dad has diabetes, he decided to have the test done too.
He went through the same series of questions as me, had his BMI checked, blood pressure monitored etc. James was given a risk score of 5, which is slightly higher than mine was, but still low.
James decided to go ahead with the blood glucose test anyway and his reading was 5.4, which is in normal range. Just like me, he was advised to be tested again in three years time and to continue living a healthy lifestyle.
I came out of the appointment with a print out detailing my risk score and blood glucose score, which is very handy to have. This can of course be passed on to your GP if necessary.
If at your appointment you are found to be at risk, or you do in fact have diabetes you will be given plenty of advice about what to do next. You’ll receive a support pack and you will also find lots of information about type 2 diabetes around the store.
Reduce your risk
Here are a few easy ways that you can help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes…
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Eat a healthy diet
- Quit smoking
- Control your blood pressure
Attending my type 2 diabetes screening definitely helped me to understand the condition better and the effects that it can have on people lives. I feel better educated on the things that I can do to keep my risk of developing the condition as low as possible. I would urge everyone to go and get tested, the screening is so quick and easy and will offer you peace of mind if nothing else.
To find out more about type 2 diabetes testing and to book your free screening click here.
Thank you for reading.
*This is a collaborative post*