Causes and risk factors of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs as a result of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas being destroyed by the immune system. Without insulin the levels of blood glucose cannot be controlled and insulin must be injected to make sure that the levels are stable. There is nothing that can be done to prevent type 1 diabetes and this condition is always treated with shots of insulin. Research into the cause of type 1 diabetes is ongoing.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs as a result of the body not producing enough insulin or the insulin not working properly. There are a number of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and these include:

  • Family history - if you have a close relative with type 2 diabetes you have a higher risk of developing the condition
  • Being overweight, especially if you have a large waist (females with a waist dimension of over 31.5 inches and males with a waist dimension of over 37 inches have a higher chance of developing diabetes)
  • Ethnicity - if you have South Asian, Middle-Eastern or African-Caribbean heritage, you have a higher risk of developing diabetes
  • If you have had a stroke or heart attack in the past
  • High blood pressure
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Gestational diabetes during pregnancy

You can ask your doctor for a diabetes test if you have one or more of the risk factors listed above, and also if you are white and over the age of 40 or you are Asian or black and aged over 25.

In some cases there is nothing you can do to prevent diabetes, but in many cases living a healthy lifestyle will help to reduce your chances of developing diabetes considerably. Sometimes, making simple changes to your lifestyle can help to treat the condition, but medication and insulin injections may be required in some cases.

Reducing your risk

In some cases it is impossible to prevent diabetes but living a healthy lifestyle may help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Healthy lifestyle tips include:

  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Eating plenty of oily fish
  • Limiting your salt intake
  • Limiting your intake of processed foods and foods that are high in saturated fats
  • Doing exercise on a regular basis
  • Keeping an eye on your blood pressure

If you are worried about diabetes and think you may be at risk of developing the disease, see your GP and ask for a diabetes test. The test is very quick and simple and if you are diagnosed, a treatment plan can be drawn up to control your symptoms and enable you to live a normal life.

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