These days, it’s easier to take control of your health than ever. With the current range of wearable activity trackers, calorie counting apps, and home blood tests, the ability to understand and harness our health is literally at our fingertips.
Now, you don’t need to go to the doctor’s to measure your heart rate. Your smartwatch does it for you. You don’t even need to see a doctor to get your cholesterol or blood sugar levels measured. A home blood test can tell you if your levels are normal or if you need to improve your health.
We’re now at a point in time where you can access information about how well your body’s functioning in ways people could only dream of a few hundred years ago. So, with this new power in our hands, it’s only right that we use it to help ourselves live the healthiest lives possible.
Part of living a long, healthy life is understanding what’s going on inside our bodies and being aware of any potential risks. One such risk is diabetes. In the UK, 4.9 million people have diabetes and this number is set to rise to 5.5 million by 2030. But what exactly is diabetes and why is it important to test yourself for it? Allow us to explain.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high. This may not sound like much of a bad thing, but it can cause serious health complications.
For instance, diabetes can cause sight loss and people with diabetes tend to experience more severe COVID symptoms. Diabetes also leads to almost 9600 leg, toe or foot amputations every year (equivalent to 185 a week) because it can cause extremely poor blood circulation to the legs.
The two most common types of diabetes are:
- Type 1 diabetes: caused when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the body (located in the pancreas) that produce insulin. Insulin helps to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood, so having a lack of it due to type 1 diabetes means sugar builds up in the blood which can have a harmful effect on your organs.
Although science is still unsure about what exactly causes type 1 diabetes, research suggests it could be caused by factors such as genetics, viral infection, or gut microbiome.
- Type 2 diabetes: caused when your body doesn’t produce or use insulin properly. It’s far more common than type 1 diabetes - in fact, 90% of people who have diabetes have type 2. Once again, scientists aren’t quite sure what causes type 2 diabetes, but factors that increase your risk of developing it include:
- Being overweight.
- Physical inactivity.
- Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes.
- Having prediabetes.
- Being over 40 if you’re white or over 25 if you’re African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian.
If you have diabetes, the speed at which you experience symptoms may depend on the type of diabetes you have. Type 1 diabetes symptoms usually develop quickly (over just a few days or weeks, especially in children), whereas type 2 diabetes normally develops slowly over time.
Many people don’t notice when they have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, and others don’t get any symptoms at all. For this reason, it’s recommended that you check your blood sugar levels from time to time with a diabetes blood test to ensure you don’t have any underlying health issues.
Diabetes can cause noticeable symptoms, however, which include:
- Urinating more than usual, especially at night.
- Feeling thirsty/dehydrated all the time.
- Feeling fatigued (very tired).
- Losing weight without meaning to.
- Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush.
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to recover.
- Blurred vision.
Given everything we know now, it’s plain to see that care should be taken to prevent diabetes. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and reducing your sugar intake are all things that can be done to prevent diabetes.
Additionally, checking your diabetes risk with a blood test is essential. Here are three reasons why.
1. Diabetes can be prevented
Thankfully, type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. This means you can avoid it by making healthy lifestyle choices.
To help protect yourself against diabetes, avoid highly processed carbohydrates (e.g. white bread), quit smoking, and ditch processed meat (e.g. sausages and bacon). They are all linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Instead, swap red meat or processed meat for a healthier source of protein such as nuts, fish, or wholegrains, because they have been found to lower diabetes risk by up to 35%.
It’s also essential that you become more physically active and maintain a healthy weight to reduce your chance of developing diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program studied the effects of exercise on overweight adults who were at a high risk of developing diabetes. After three years of averaging 150 minutes of exercise a week and following a low-fat diet, their average risk of developing diabetes fell by 58%. What’s more, follow-up studies revealed there was a 16% reduction in risk for every kilogram of weight lost, adjusted for changes in diet and activity.
Lastly, it’s possible to spot diabetes before it becomes too much of a problem by monitoring your blood sugar levels. The easiest way to do this is to take a home blood test. A blood test kit like the Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus measures how high your blood sugar levels have been on average over the past three months to give you an accurate picture of your diabetes risk.
2. Diabetes can be reversed
Here’s something that may surprise you: type 2 diabetes can be reversed. If you develop diabetes, it is indeed possible to lower your blood sugar levels to a level that is below the diabetes range - all without needing to take any medication.
When this happens, it’s said that your diabetes has gone into “remission”. Diabetes remission is defined as when your HbA1c (a measure of long-term blood glucose levels) remains below 48mmol/mol or 6.5% for at least six months.
But the question is, how do you get your diabetes to go into remission? Science is still trying to figure out whether everyone with type 2 diabetes can go into remission, but here’s what we know so far.
If you’re obese and have diabetes, you have a higher chance of putting it into remission if you lose weight. Diabetes UK recommends losing 15kg as quickly and safely as possible after you’re first diagnosed with diabetes, however this number might vary depending on the individual.
Before you embark on your weight loss journey, you should talk to a healthcare professional (e.g. your GP) to make sure that it’s the best choice for you and your health. Rapid weight loss shouldn’t be attempted if you’re a healthy weight, are under 18, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder.
At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much information on putting diabetes into remission if you’re a healthy weight. However, as research into this area of diabetes management grows, there may be some very promising findings in the future.
It’s worth noting that putting your diabetes into remission does not necessarily mean it will be gone forever. It could come back, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle even after you achieve remission to help prevent it from reemerging.
3. It’s easy to test yourself for Diabetes
Gone are the days where you have to schedule a doctor’s appointment and wait ages to get tested for diabetes. Now, you can book a blood test online and get a home blood test delivered to your door quickly.
A home blood test is a simple finger prick test that’s easy to complete - even if it’s your first time using one. Just use the equipment provided in the kit to prick your finger, collect a blood sample, then send it to a lab. Within a few days, you’ll have your blood test results which you can use to check your diabetes risk.
If you want to measure your diabetes risk and have a general health check up at the same time, then the Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus is an excellent test to use. It measures your diabetes risk as well as a complete range of other health indicators including your cholesterol levels, testosterone levels, and organ health. On top of this, each Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus comes with a free, written review of your results from a clinician to help you understand what your results mean for your health.
When you order a Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus, you also have the option to book a telephone consultation with a GP to get more in-depth advice about your blood test results. During the phone consultation, the GP can use your blood test results to give you practical, personalised guidance on how to improve your health. They can also answer any questions you have about your blood test results so you can start to take control of your health with greater confidence.
The bottom line
Many people have risk factors for diabetes without knowing it (e.g. being overweight, physically inactive, etc.) which is why it’s important to check your diabetes risk from time to time with a blood test.
Diabetes can be prevented and it’s much easier to prevent once you’re aware of your blood sugar levels. But it’s only possible to know what your blood sugar levels are by taking a blood test.
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