Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is one of the most common metabolic disorders, affecting around 8.5% of adults worldwide. Its prevalence has increased in the last few decades, especially in low and middle-income countries. Worldwide, the disease causes around 1.5 million deaths yearly, and in the United Kingdom, it costs the NHS £10 billion per year, making it a public health issue of great magnitude. Unfortunately, patients with T2DM often receive a late diagnosis and have already developed complications. 1
What is Diabetes Type 2?
T2DM is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for over 90% of all diabetes cases. It is a common chronic metabolic disorder that causes increased levels of blood sugar (glucose) levels, which is harmful to many body parts, such as the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves.1,2
The number of disease cases has been rising in the last few decades, which has been closely linked to the increase in obesity around the world. In reality, these numbers are even larger since it is estimated that 1 in 3 diabetic people are undiagnosed. T2DM affects mostly adults between 40 and 59 years of age and represents an important issue for individuals and healthcare systems. 1,2
The most common symptoms of T2DM include: 1,2
- Blurred vision
- Unintentional weight loss
- Fatigue (feeling more tired than usual)
- Urinating more than usual, especially at night
- Feeling more thirsty or hungry than usual
- Having cuts or sores that take longer than usual to heal
- Feeling numbness or tingling on your hands and/or feet
It is important to note that many people have T2DM without knowing it. This is because the symptoms might not cause any discomfort or may not be present at all. Therefore, if you are concerned about having T2DM or have any of the symptoms mentioned above, please visit your general practitioner and share your concerns.
The causes of T2DM include environmental factors – mainly an unhealthy diet and low level of activity, genetic factors and metabolic factors that lead to imbalances in the metabolism of glucose. The main two main causes are an impaired secretion of insulin by the beta-cells in the pancreas and the insensitivity of the body tissues to insulin.2
The level of glucose in the blood is maintained by insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. When we eat, insulin takes the glucose out of the blood and brings it to the inside of the cells to transform it into energy. In T2DM, the impaired secretion of insulin means that there is not enough of it to move the glucose to the inside of the cells and the insensitivity to insulin means that the hormone can not do this transfer properly. 2
The risk factors for T2DM include genetic, environmental and metabolic. However, the risk of T2DM can be significantly reduced by lifestyle changes. Examples of the main risk factors are: 3
- Being overweight or obese
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of T2DM (having a close relative who has the disease)
- Being 45 years or older
- Being African American or Hispanic.
Can You Reduce Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes by Making a Few Changes to Your Lifestyle?
The following lifestyle factors have the greatest impact on your risk of diabetes type 2. We will also look at what you can do to reduce your risk from today.
An unhealthy diet is one of the main risk factors for developing T2DM. Having a healthy diet that includes regular meals with several nutritious groups of foods and keeping the amount of sugar, fat and salt low is one of the best ways to prevent T2DM. 3
Being physically active significantly reduces the risk of T2DM, even if no weight loss is associated with physical exercise. To reduce the risk of T2DM, you should perform moderately intense physical activities, such as fast walking and climbing stairs, for at least 150 minutes per week. 3
Obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m²) is an important risk factor for developing T2DM. For overweight or obese individuals, a weight loss of 5-10% already significantly reduces the risk of developing the disease. 3
Intake of excessive amounts of alcohol increases the risk of T2DM. Importantly, patients who have T2DM are at risk of suffering from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) when ingesting large amounts of alcohol. Hypoglycemia is a serious condition that can lead to death. Its symptoms, such as confusion and slurred speech, can be mistaken for being drunk, which makes the condition hard to diagnose and even more dangerous for diabetic patients. 3
Sleeping 7-8 hours per night decreases the risk of T2DM, and every hour less than that increases the risk by 9%. However, sleeping more than that or napping during the day might increase the risk of T2DM. 3
Many mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, affect T2DM patients more than the general population. Mental health conditions tend to be more persistent in T2DM patients. Patients suffering from depression and T2DM have been associated with poor control of diabetes with a higher risk of developing complications and higher mortality rates. 4
Therefore, it is crucial to care for the mental health of T2DM patients. If you are struggling or know someone facing difficulties with the disease, seek the support of your general practitioner and other healthcare workers.
Keeping your emotional health balanced is necessary for your physical health. Self-care is important for overall good health, especially for long-term conditions such as T2DM, in which maintaining the disease under control is of utmost importance. Therefore, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent T2DM or maintain the condition under control, it is essential to care for your well-being and maintain a satisfactory quality of life. 4
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is a common metabolic disease worldwide, affecting the health and well-being of millions of individuals and costing billions to healthcare systems around the world. The condition can cause symptoms such as excessive thirst, weight loss and increased urination, but many people show no symptoms and remain undiagnosed, which is why it is important to visit your general practitioner if you have any health concerns.
The disease can be prevented by lifestyle changes, especially a healthy diet and physical exercise. Being obese or overweight, ingesting excessive amounts of alcohol and sleeping less than 7-8 hours per day also increases the risk of T2DM.
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- Ahmad LA, Crandall JP. Type 2 Diabetes Prevention: A Review. Clin Diabetes. 2010; 28 (2): 53–59. [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 4]. Available from: https://diabetesjournals.org/clinical/article/28/2/53/31277/Type-2-Diabetes-Prevention-A-Review.
- Galicia-Garcia U, Benito-Vicente A, Jebari S, Larrea-Sebal A, Siddiqi H, Uribe KB, et al. Pathophysiology of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 4]; 21(17):6275. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7503727/.
- Kolb H, Martin S. Environmental/lifestyle factors in the pathogenesis and prevention of type 2 diabetes. BMC Med. 2017; 15(1):131. [cited 2022 Oct 4]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28720102/
- Guerrero Fernández de Alba IFA, Gimeno-Miguel A, Poblador-Plou B, Gimeno-Feliu LA, Ioakeim-Skoufa I, Rojo-Martínez G, et al. Association between mental health comorbidity and health outcomes in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Sci Rep. 2020; 11;10(1):19583. [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 4]. Available from: https://en.x-mol.com/paper/article/1326768682883522560.