Firstly let me start by explaining that I am a Dietitian…. So I know a lot about both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. However, what helps me to really understand the impact of diabetes on life, is that a family member and someone that I live with is Type 1 Diabetic. I have asked them to write a bit about their experience, which I will post soon. In the meantime, let me explain the difference between Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease. There are about 14,000 people with Type 1 diabetes in Ireland. The persons own immune system destroyed the insulin-making cells of their pancreas, an organ in the body. This caused the blood glucose levels to increase beyond healthy levels, as the body lacked insulin to take that glucose (carbohydrate in the blood) and bring it into the cells to be used as energy. Consequently the person becomes very tired. The kidneys try to rectify the situation by getting rid of the excess glucose through the urine. Therefore the person becomes extremely thirsty and spends a lot of time urinating. The only treatment is to mimic the pancreas by injecting the body with insulin every time the person eats carbohydrates. This can be done by a few methods…. But it is a constant requirement. When someone is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, their life changes dramatically.
Type 2 diabetes is more common (at least 143,000 people with diabetes in Ireland) and the type of diabetes that most people are more familiar with. The majority of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. However, there are many people who are overweight or obese who do not develop diabetes. Nonetheless the association between Type 2 Diabetes is crucial and should never be played down.
Early detection of Type 2 diabetes is key. In the early stages, diet can help control if not treat diabetes. Therefore it comes as a bit of relief to most health care professionals that it is in the media all the time. While Type 1 diabetes is usually quick to develop, Type 2 is often very slow and can go undetected for some time. Unfortunately there are an estimated 30,000 people with undetected Type 2 diabetes and a staggering 146,000 people with undetected pre-diabetes in Ireland.
Similarly, but less dramatically to Type 1, Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed by abnormal blood glucose levels which result in symptoms like extreme thirst, tiredness and increase need to urinate. The issue with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is that abnormal blood glucose levels result in symptoms that impact upon quality of life. However, it is the long term effect of these abnormal blood glucose levels that really cause harm to the body. For example, the eyes, kidneys, heart and nerves can become very damaged.
Managing blood glucose levels is central to protecting the body from symptoms and from these other health issues. While Type 1 diabetes involves careful management with insulin with incorporation of diet, diet is central to Type 2 diabetes management. In fact, sticking to a diet designed by a Dietitian, and tailored to you, can bring your blood glucose levels back to normal for good.
While research on ways to prevent Type 1 diabetes is ongoing, a healthy diet and lifestyle is central to prevention of Type 2 diabetes. The battle to stop the progression of Type 2 diabetes must start now…. Pre-diabetes can result in the same health risk of diabetes! and those with pre-diabetes have a 5-15 fold higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes within a 3-5 year period. Fortunately one of the greatest risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, being overweight, can be treated. Unfortunately, as you may know, losing weight is challenging. It involves changes to your diet AND to your lifestyle. For that reason, I would suggest giving yourself the best chance, ask for help from the health care professional trained in this very area… the Dietitian!