Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes Risk Factors and Management


More than 4.9 million people in the UK are currently living with diabetes[i], a serious condition that occurs when an individual’s blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high. Type 1 and Type 2 are the two main types of diabetes, diagnosed in 8%[ii] and 90%[iii] of people with diabetes in the UK, respectively. Many other types of diabetes exist, but are less well known, including gestational diabetes, types of monogenic diabetes, and diabetes caused by rare conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, or Wolfram Syndrome; these types are often misdiagnosed, with some (e.g. Type 3c) not recognised as medical conditions[iv], which can lead to delays in patients receiving the right treatment.

The common feature of all forms of diabetes is their links to blood glucose levels and insulin, an essential hormone that allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies. Type 1 diabetes occurs where the body is unable to produce any insulin, causing glucose to build up in the bloodstream, while Type 2 diabetes occurs where the pancreas either cannot produce sufficient amounts of insulin, or where the insulin produced by the pancreas doesn’t function properly, meaning blood glucose levels continue to rise. If left untreated, diabetes can be severe, causing around 22,000 early deaths each year in the UK alone[v].

While Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and is not linked to lifestyle, more than half of all cases of Type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed through lifestyle change. High blood pressure and being overweight – in particular carrying extra weight around the waist – can significantly increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes; a build-up of fat around organs can lead to insulin resistance (where insulin cannot pass through the fat), increasing the chances of high blood glucose levels.

Age and ethnicity are also significant risk factors. From the age of 25, people from Black African, African Caribbean, and South Asian backgrounds are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to the age of 40 for White Europeans[vi]. While research has not yet determined exactly why this is, studies have also indicated, for example, that insulin resistance is not a driving factor for onset of Type 2 diabetes in Black African people, as it is known to be for White European people[vii]. This points to the need for more tailored treatment strategies, to ensure people from ethnic minority groups are receiving the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

Although there is currently no known cure for diabetes, people with Type 2 diabetes can reach a stage known as ‘remission’, where blood sugar levels balance and do not require diabetes medication, while research into immunotherapies as a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes is also progressing.

However, with the right treatment and care, people living with diabetes can live a healthy, comfortable life without complications. While Type 1 diabetes is typically managed through taking insulin, Type 2 can be managed through medication and weight loss surgery, as well as a healthy diet and exercise.

NHS England states “there is strong international evidence which demonstrates how behavioural interventions, which support people to maintain a healthy weight and be more active, can significantly reduce the risk of developing [diabetes]”[viii]. National preventative programmes include ‘The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme’ and the ongoing pilot ‘NHS Low Calorie Diet Programme’.

Community Weight Management services play a crucial role in Type 2 diabetes prevention, supporting people with healthy eating and physical activity to promote sustained weight loss and long-term lifestyle change. Having delivered a number of Community Weight Management tenders for our clients, HealthBid understands the importance of peer support and a structured approach to underpin sustainable behaviour change, whilst playing a key role in reducing pressure within the wider health and social care system.

To find out more about our services and how we can help you write winning tenders, contact or Laura Moore on 0113 479 0803.

Written by Natalie York, Bid Writer at HealthBid


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