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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a common condition and affects around 4 million people in the UK. It occurs when the amount of glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood is too high.

Your body produces glucose from the food you eat to provide energy for your cells. To help your cells absorb this glucose, the beta cells in your pancreas release insulin. Insulin is important as it allows glucose to be transported through your bloodstream and into your muscles.

If you do not produce enough insulin, glucose cannot be transported and absorbed effectively by your cells and muscles, and you end up with too much glucose in your blood stream.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Around 10% of adults in the UK have type 1 diabetes. It occurs when your pancreas is unable to produce any insulin because your beta cells in the pancreas have been destroyed. Type 1 diabetes typically develops in childhood but can appear at any age, although usually before the age of 40.

A series of short video series have been created by NHS healthcare professionals and patients, they are designed to help you to understand and manage your condition.

Watch type 1 series 1 video here

Watch type 1 series 2 video here

Watch attending your diabetes review video here

What is type 2 diabetes?

With type 2 diabetes, the beta cells in your pancreas do produce insulin but either there is not enough, or your body doesn’t use it as it should (insulin resistance).

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes and usually develops in adults over the age of 40.

Watch type 2 series 1 diabetes video here

Watch type 2 series 2 diabetes video here 

Watch type 2 series 3 diabetes video here 


Many more people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes

This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range, your risk of developing diabetes is increased.

It's very important for diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible because it will get progressively worse if left untreated.

Watch pre-diabetes video here

Common symptoms of diabetes

Knowing and recognising the signs and symptoms of diabetes is really important. With an early diagnosis and by managing your condition from the start, you are less likely to develop complications later on.

The main symptoms are:

  • Passing water more often, especially at night
  • Feeling thirsty more often
  • Feeling tired and low on energy
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Genital itching or thrush
  • Cuts and wounds take longer to heal
  • Blurred vision.

Am I at risk?

Anyone can develop diabetes, but you are more at risk if:

  • You’re aged 40+ (or 25+ if South Asian)
  • A parent or sibling has diabetes
  • You’re overweight (BMI 30+)
  • You’re an overweight woman with polycystic ovary syndrome
  • You had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby over 10 pounds

If you suffer from several of these symptoms, see your GP as soon as possible.

www.best-you.org is full of useful tools to get you started and track your journey to a new, healthier you.

Tips to reduce your diabetes

  • Lose weight and stay a healthy weight
  • Get and stay active
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Lifestyle choices – drink less alcohol and stop smoking

Living with diabetes

Lifestyle changes are often advised for people at higher risk of diabetes and those who are newly diagnosed with type 2, to help manage their diabetes. You’ll need to eat healthily, take regular exercise and carry out regular blood tests to ensure your blood glucose levels stays balanced. 

What support is available to me?

As part of our service, we offer a free online platform and self-care app called Best-You that you can use to get information, set goals and track your lifestyle changes. Best-You is full of helpful tips and support to get you started and keep you on track. Register today at www.bestyoucov.org  

Our healthy lifestyles service is available to help and support you to make lifestyle changes. If you would like to join our service please fill out the referral form here 

If you are worried about your diabetes risk, there is plenty of support available to you – please speak to your GP about the National Diabetes Prevention Programme and contact our service today for help and advice

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