Manage your diabetes

Diabetes is a disorder, caused by the lack of the hormone insulin, which alters your body's ability to store or use glucose (the source of energy that comes from carbohydrates / sugars).

It also causes problems in metabolising fats and speeds up the degeneration of blood vessels.

There are two main types of diabetes, each of which require slightly different treatment. Usually some form of dietary control is needed.

  • Type I diabetes: if you have Type I you do not produce any insulin and you have to take regular insulin injections.
  • Type II diabetes: if you have Type II you do not produce enough insulin and you may have to take medication.

How is diabetes linked to heart disease and stroke?

  • It is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • People who have diabetes are between 2 and 5 times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke than people who do not.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes contributes to damage to the blood vessels and the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • People who have Type 2 diabetes are more likely to have high LDL ('bad') cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • People who have Type 2 diabetes are also more likely to have high blood pressure - another risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

If you already have other cardiovascular risk factors then your risks multiply. The good news is that there are things you can do to control your diabetes, reduce your cardiovascular risks.

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What are the symptoms of diabetes?

In Type 1 diabetes, the symptoms develop quickly over a few weeks, but Type 2 diabetes develops gradually over many years. You may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Passing more urine than normal (especially at night)
  • Increased tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Genital itching (or regular episodes of thrush)
  • Recurrent, non-healing infections

Treatment

Treatment for Type 1 diabetes involves having insulin injections every day. There are many different types of insulin and the best regime will be worked out for you depending on your age and lifestyle.

Type 2 diabetes may be controlled by diet alone or by a combination of diet, tablets and in some cases, insulin injections. There are several different groups of drugs used for diabetes. Your GP will prescribe the most suitable one for you.

Diet plays an important role in both types, particularly in controlling the intake of carbohydrates and sugars. Eating a healthy, varied diet is also important for reducing your overall risk of heart disease and stroke.

Monitoring diabetes

It is important to get your diabetes under the best possible control:

  • Check your blood glucose levels and test your urine regularly.
  • Follow the treatment that is prescribed for you.
  • Attend your doctor and / or clinic regularly.

To minimise any other complications of diabetes it is recommend that you:

  • Have an annual eye examination.
  • Take particular care of your feet and attend a chiropodist regularly.
  • Report any problems as early as possible.
See the CHSS factsheet Diabetes: the links with heart disease and stroke for more information

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