A record number of people are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the NHS has said.
Around two million people have the “pre-diabetes” condition known as non-diabetic hyperglycaemia – and the scale of the problem is likely to become worse.
So why is non-diabetic hyperglycaemia an issue, what’s causing it and can it be prevented?
What is it?
If you have non-diabetic hyperglycaemia, you have raised blood glucose levels – but not in the diabetic range. Think of it as your body offering up a warning sign.
People with non-diabetic hyperglycaemia are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as other cardiovascular conditions.
The growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 extra people suffering a heart attack in 2035, predictions show, and more than 50,000 experiencing a stroke.
Why care about pre-diabetes?
Just like type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes is largely preventable – or at the very least, you can slow it down. NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said people simply need to take “small, common-sense steps” to control their health.
“Unless many more of us make a change,” he continued, “obesity-related illnesses will end up costing hundreds of thousands more lives and billions of pounds in higher treatment costs.”
People can find out if they have non-diabetic hyperglycaemia through blood tests that determine the levels of glucose in their blood. There aren’t any symptoms, so you won’t know you have it unless you get a blood test.
How can it be prevented?
A key way to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, and pre-diabetes, is to manage your weight. If you’re overweight, losing just 5% of your body weight can significantly reduce your risk.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also help – a Mediterranean diet is a good place to start. Or, try a veggie or vegan diet.
Diabetes UK suggests aiming to eat foods with less saturated fat, salt and sugar, as well as at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Meanwhile, have fewer red and processed meats, refined carbs (white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice), sugary drinks and fries.
You should focus on becoming more active – find something you enjoy though, otherwise the chances of you sticking to it will be slim. A sedentary lifestyle is linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The chief medical officer’s physical activity guidelines suggest that every week, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity (brisk walking or cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (running).
Chris Askew, chief executive at Diabetes UK, estimates more than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes − and the devastating complications it can lead to − could be prevented or delayed by making these changes.