Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high. The amount of sugar in your blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach). When food is digested and enters your bloodstream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it's broken down to produce energy.
However, if you have diabetes, your body is unable to break glucose down into energy, either because there’s not enough insulin to move the glucose or the insulin produced doesn't work properly.
Although there are no lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is often linked to being overweight or inactive and is the most common type in the UK.
Diabetes can also cause other conditions, such as sight loss, kidney failure, heart attacks or stroke and, every year, around 22,000 people with diabetes die early.
The types of diabetes
If your body can't produce enough insulin to control your blood glucose, you’ll need daily injections of insulin to keep your blood glucose levels under control. It can take time to get used to managing Type 1 diabetes, but it won’t prevent you from still doing the things you enjoy.
Type 2 diabetes: Where the body doesn't produce enough insulin or the body's cells don't react to insulin
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1 and is often linked to being overweight or inactive or having a family history diabetes. If you have Type 2 diabetes or are at risk of developing it, you may need to make changes to your lifestyle, including changing your diet and exercise levels.
What you can do to help
- Try to eat more healthily
- If you’re overweight, try to lose some weight and then maintain a healthy weight
- If you smoke, try to stop smoking or consider swapping to vaping
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Take plenty of regular exercise
Take a look at our keeping well, staying healthy section for more advice and support.
Healthier You, the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme in Herefordshire, provide a coach-led group programme with practical advice that’s proven to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, alongside an online app. You will need to contact your GP practice to find out if you’re eligible for the programme and to be referred.
Diabetes UK provide support and tailored advice to anyone affected by diabetes in the United Kingdom.
The NHS provide a wide range of advice and information on diabetes, including symptoms and when to see a doctor, reducing the risks, living with diabetes, diabetic eye screening and diabetes during pregnancy.