Know your diabetes

Find local services and educate yourself on diabetes with the Book & Learn hub.

What is type 2 diabetes?

  • Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
  •  It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.
  •  It’s a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.
  • It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It’s often linked to being overweight or inactive or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

Managing my condition

It’s no secret that type 2 diabetes is on the rise in the United States and around the world. But if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, there’s a lot you can do to improve your health — and the best place to start is likely by making some changes to your lifestyle.

“Basic principles of good health like eating right, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can be as effective as medicine in the management of type 2 diabetes for most people,” says Sue McLaughlin, RD, CDE, lead medical nutrition therapist at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha. That’s backed up by the Look AHEAD study, a large clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The researchers found that over a four-year period, changes like eating a healthier diet and getting more exercise led to weight loss and improved diabetes control in 5,000 overweight or obese participants with type 2 diabetes.

Improve Your Diet to Help You Treat Type 2 Diabetes Naturally:

Keeping close tabs on your diet is a major way to help manage type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet for people with type 2 diabetes includes fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Focus on eating fruit and non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, and lettuce, and having smaller portions of starchy foods, meats, and dairy products. Be especially careful about loading up on foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and especially the glycemic load (GL), systems that rank foods according to how they affect glucose levels.

“High glycemic index foods are going to be primarily processed foods,” says Lori Chong, RD, CDE, at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Those processed foods tend to have more white sugar and flour in them, which are higher on the GI, she says. Foods lower on the GI include vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens and whole-grain products, such as brown rice (as opposed to white rice), Chong says. She notes that even many fruits are low on the GI, with pineapple and dried fruit being some of the highest (Berries, apples, and pears tend to be fairly low.)

Limit fast food, too, as these eats contain trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and loads of sodium, which can be especially unhealthy for people with type 2 diabetes due to their effect on the heart and body weight.

To help you avoid or limit fast food, Chong recommends planning ahead by packing healthy meals or snacks. Diabetes-friendly snack ideas include a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, and yogurt. Also, if you absolutely must stop at a fast-food restaurant, steer clear of anything that’s deep-fried — such as french fries, chicken nuggets, and breaded fish or chicken, Chong says.

Lose Weight — Especially Belly Fat — to Help Lower Glucose Levels

Shedding pounds can improve blood sugar levels and help keep type 2 diabetes under control. And you don’t have to lose a lot of weight to make a difference. “If you already have type 2 diabetes, losing just 10 to 15 pounds can lower your glucose levels,” says McLaughlin.

In fact, the CDC notes that losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So, if you’re 200 pounds, aiming to lose about 10 to 14 pounds might help you prevent prediabetes from progressing to full-blown type 2 diabetes or help halt the advancement of type 2 diabetes if you’ve already been diagnosed.

Where your fat is distributed also affects your diabetes risk and management. People who carry most of their fat in their belly (referred to as having an apple-shaped body) are more prone to type 2 diabetes than those with fat mostly in the thighs, hips, and buttocks (having a pear-shaped body).

“The abdominal fat tends to increase insulin resistance,” Chong explains. “Insulin resistance is really the heart of the problem with type 2 diabetes.”

A woman whose waist measures more than 35 inches and a man with a 40-inch waist need to lose weight for good diabetes management regardless of what their body mass index (BMI) may be, says McLaughlin, adding that a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise will whittle away weight in the stomach area.

Exercise Regularly as Part of Your Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Plan

Even without losing a pound, you can help keep type 2 diabetes under control with exercise.

“When you do physical activity, such as walking, your muscle contractions push glucose out of your blood into your cells,” explains McLaughlin. The result: better blood sugar levels.

The more intense the exercise, the better. According to the British diabetes association, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be better for weight loss and glucose control than continuous aerobic activity like jogging. HIIT involves alternating between short bursts of increased intensity exercise and rest — for instance, running and then walking on and off throughout the workout.

Regular weightlifting sessions can also help keep blood sugar levels steady. McLaughlin recommends using hand weights or resistance bands for 30 minutes two or three times a week. The CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity, which comes out to about 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

Control Sleep Apnea to Help Manage Blood Sugar Spikes and Dips

Many overweight people with type 2 diabetes also have sleep apnea, a condition in which a person stops breathing temporarily while sleeping. In fact, a study published in 2013 in Family Medicine suggests that as many as one in two people with type 2 diabetes may have or be at high risk for sleep apnea, many of whom are undiagnosed.

People with type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea are at higher risk of death from diabetes complications such as heart attack and stroke.

Chong points to previous research in Circulation that describes the underlying mechanisms of sleep apnea. In people with sleep apnea, activation of the sympathetic nervous system — including increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and constriction of blood vessels — all led to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, which can be compounded in people who have type 2 diabetes (and thus already have a higher risk of heart disease).

“It’s a whole cascade of events, and no one is really sure what comes first,” Chong says.

Severe cases of sleep apnea may need to be treated with surgery or by wearing a special device while sleeping, but less severe cases can be managed by losing weight. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may have sleep apnea — loud snoring, a large neck, and being overweight are all risk factors.

Make Sure Your Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Includes Stress Management

Poorly managed stress can make blood sugar levels harder to control, says McLaughlin. Try using relaxation techniques to chase away stress. Top-notch stress busters for diabetes include yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage, and soothing music.

As a bonus, stress relief may help you sleep better, which is important because studies show that not getting enough sleep can worsen type 2 diabetes. Sleeping less than six hours a night has also been found to contribute to impaired glucose tolerance, a condition that often precedes type 2 diabetes. In fact, a review published in 2015 in Diabetes Care analyzed 10 studies that involved more than 18,000 participants combined and found the lowest risk of type 2 diabetes in the group of participants that slept seven to eight hours per day. That’s the minimum recommended amount of sleep for most adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Here are some other tips for reducing stress and sleeping better while managing diabetes:

In addition to yoga, try deep breathing before bed. This practice can promote mindfulness, helping you relax and fall asleep.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods at night. “When people are sleep-deprived, they crave high-energy or high-sugar foods, which can make weight gain more likely if it happens repeatedly,” Chong explains.

Maintain a slightly cool temperature in your sleep environment. The National Sleep Foundation points out that a cool room is easier to sleep in than a warm room.

Block out all light and noise. This will make it easier for you to sleep, and in turn help lower your stress levels, Chong says. Blue light, the kind emitted by cell phones, tablets, and TVs can make falling asleep particularly difficult. So turn your screens off an hour or two before hitting the hay.

Go to bed at the same time every night to establish a sleep schedule. “Our bodies like routine,” Chong says. By establishing a regular sleep routine, you can take advantage of — and not confuse — your body’s internal circadian rhythm.

Is there a cure?

Is there a cure for diabetes?

At this time there is no known cure for Type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. However, we are funding pioneering, life-changing research into care, treatment and prevention, and working to find a cure for all types of diabetes.

How is diabetes treated, and is there a cure?

Currently, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, but it can be treated successfully by administering insulin, either by an injection or pump, and by following a healthy, balanced diet and getting regular physical activity. Looking after diabetes requires planning and attention, which may feel overwhelming at times, especially when your child is first diagnosed. However, there’s no reason for it to stop your child living the healthy, happy and successful life you had hoped for them.

Myths of type 2 diabetes

Myth: Type 2 diabetes is a mild form of diabetes
There is no such thing as mild diabetes. All diabetes is serious and, if not properly controlled, can lead to serious complications.

Myth: People with diabetes cannot have sugar
Having diabetes does not mean you have to have a sugar-free diet. People with diabetes should follow a healthy balanced diet – that is low in fat, salt and sugar. You should still be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods, including some with sugar.

Myth: People with diabetes should eat ‘diabetic’ foods
‘Diabetic’ labelling tends to be used on sweets, biscuits and similar foods that are generally high in fat, especially saturated fat and calories. Diabetes UK does not recommend eating ‘diabetic’ foods, including diabetic chocolate, because they still affect your blood glucose levels, they are expensive and they can give you diarrhoea. So, if you are going to treat yourself, you should go for the real thing.

Myth: People with diabetes eventually go blind
Although diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people of working age in the UK, research has proved you can reduce your chances of developing diabetes complications – such as damage to your eyes – if you:
control your blood pressure, glucose, and blood fat levels
keep active, maintain your ideal body weight, give up smoking.

Myth: It’s not safe to drive if you have diabetes
Providing you are responsible and have good control of your diabetes, research shows that people with diabetes are no less safe on the roads than anyone else. Nevertheless, the myth that people with diabetes are not safe persists.

Diabetes UK is working with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in England, Scotland and Wales and the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland to ensure that the process for applying and reapplying for driving licences is fair, safe and transparent.

Myth: People with diabetes can’t play sport
People with diabetes are encouraged to exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. Keeping active can help reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease. Steve Redgrave, Olympic gold medal-winning rower, has achieved great sporting achievements in spite of having diabetes.

However, there may be some considerations to take into account before taking up a new exercise regime. Talk to your healthcare team for more information.

Myth: People with diabetes are more likely to get colds and other illnesses
Not true. While there is some medical research that may suggest people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing illnesses, there’s nothing to prove this conclusively. But there are certain illnesses that are more common in people with diabetes, and diabetes may also alter the course of an illness – for example, a person with diabetes may become more unwell or be unwell for longer than a person without diabetes.

Myth: Having diabetes means you can’t do certain jobs
Having diabetes should not stop you from getting and keeping a job. However, despite the Equality Act 2010 (Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland), people with diabetes still face blanket bans in some areas of employment, including the armed forces. Diabetes UK campaigns to lift discriminatory blanket bans.

Myth: People with diabetes can’t wear flight socks
Many flight socks carry the warning that they are not suitable for people with diabetes. If you have any circulatory problems or complications with your feet, such as ulcers, then speak to your GP before using them. If, however, your feet and legs are generally healthy and you are normally active, using flight socks is unlikely to do you any harm.

Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat grapes, mangoes or bananas
People sometimes think that if they have diabetes they can’t eat grapes and bananas as they taste sweet. But if you eat a diet that includes these fruits, you can still achieve good blood glucose control. In fact, grapes and bananas, like all fruit, make a very healthy choice.

Fruit is high in fibre, low in fat and full of vitamins and minerals. It helps to protect against heart disease, cancer and certain stomach problems.

Myth: People with diabetes can’t cut their own toenails
Not true: the general advice on toenail cutting applies to everyone. If you have diabetes you should keep your nails healthy by cutting them to the shape of the end of your toes. Don’t cut them straight across, curved down the sides, or too short. Remember, your nails are there to protect your toes.

It is safest to trim your nails with a pair of nail clippers and to use an emery board to file the corners of your nails. If it is difficult for you to care for your nails, you should seek help from a podiatrist.

It is important to realise that there is a lot of misinformation out there. Make sure you get your information from reliable sources, such as your diabetes healthcare team or Diabetes UK.

Complications of type 2 diabetes

Chronic complications –

Eye problems (retinopathy)
Foot problems
Heart attack and stroke
Kidney problems (nephropathy)
Nerve damage (neuropathy)
Gum disease and other mouth problems
Related conditions, like cancer
Sexual problems in women
Sexual problems in men

Acute complications –

Hypos– when your blood sugars are too low
Hypers– when your blood sugars are too high
Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS)– a life-threatening emergency that only happens in people with Type 2 diabetes. It’s brought on by severe dehydration and very high blood sugars.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – a life-threatening emergency where the lack of insulin and high blood sugars leads to a build-up of ketones.

Diabetes and Cancer - What is the relation?

The link between diabetes and cancer may be partially explained by risk factors that underlie and raise the risk of both diseases.
Sex: Overall, men are more likely to develop both cancer and type 2 diabetes than women.
Weight: Overweight and obese people are more likely to develop cancer than lean people. The association between type 2 diabetes and weight is also well established. While it’s clear that losing weight reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes, less is known about whether weight loss combats cancer.
Diet: Eating patterns that are thought to help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes—limited red and processed meats and abundant vegetables, fruits, and whole grains—are also associated with a lower risk for many types of cancer.
Exercise: Studies show that regular physical activity lowers the risk of developing several types of cancer. Likewise, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes by 25 to 36 percent.
Smoking: Tobacco smoking is associated with lung and several other types of cancer. It’s also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and some diabetes complications.

Cause and Effect?
The diabetes-cancer link varies among cancer types, which may give researchers some insight into what lies behind the association. Cancers of the liver, pancreas, and endometrium (uterus lining) are twice as likely to occur in people with diabetes as those without the disease, while the link between colon, rectal, breast, and bladder cancers and diabetes is only half as strong. Other cancers either aren’t associated with diabetes or there isn’t enough evidence to say one way or the other. One exception to the rule is prostate cancer; the data suggest that diabetes may protect against prostate cancer, perhaps because it’s associated with lower testosterone levels.

Most studies exploring the link between cancer and diabetes have focused on type 2. “The evidence for type 2 is strong,” according to Derek LeRoith, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist and professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “With type 1, it’s unclear.” He says this is because few studies have looked at type 1 specifically, and they have tended to be small and include mostly young people, who are less likely to develop cancer in the first place.

Even the many large studies done in type 2 can’t say definitively whether diabetes causes cancer. Researchers can’t rule out that a trait, such as obesity, raises the risk for both cancer and diabetes. That would mean the two conditions would be likely to occur together, but without one disease causing the other.


Hyper vs Hypo

Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia occur when the body is unable to strike that delicate balance of blood glucose with food and activities. Even with the additional support of insulin injections it is easy to lose this balance. Hypoglycaemia is when blood glucose drops too low. Hyperglycaemia is when blood glucose rises too high.
With a hypo (full: hypoglycemia) the blood sugar is too low. A hypo can occur because you eat too little, inject too much insulin or do a bodily effort for too long. Most times a hypo feels like feeling uneasy, but this is not always the case. Sometimes you don’t feel a hypo coming at all. In this case, somebody else catches on to what is happening to you before you do.

Symptoms of a hypo:
– Being tired
– Feeling hungry, shaking, sweating
– Seeing less
– Headache – feeling very warm or cold
– Mood swings, loss of concentration

It is important to recognize a hypo timely. If not, ultimately there can be so little glucose available to the brain that it doesn’t function properly anymore. You can faint or even go into a coma. Therefore, the lack of sugar in the blood has to be supplemented as soon as possible with fast carbohydrates. Fructose (Dextro Energy) or lemonade syrup are very useful for this. Directly after that, you have to eat something, like a cake, a sandwich or a banana.

Exercising or other bodily efforts are things best not to do if you have a hypo. Measure your blood glucose level again after fifteen minutes. Is it lower than 2,7 mmol/l, call our emergency line and you are immediately given advice by one of our doctors.

The reverse of a hypo is a hyper (full: hyperglycemia). The blood sugar level is too high, which means above 11.1 mmol/l. A hyper can occur by eating too much, using no or too little insulin, stress or disease.

Symptoms of a hyper are:
– Thirst, dry tongue
– Tiredness, sleepyness
– Urinating much
– Sudden mood swings, getting angry easily
– Being nauseous or vomiting

What you have to do when you get a hypo depends on the glucose level. Sometimes giving yourself some extra insulin according to the treatment schedule is enough. If a hyper occurs more often or if your level is too high up, get in contact with the team that treats you or call the Diabeter emergency line.

A child that has too high levels for a longer period, can deregulate into a diabetic ketoacidose (DKA). A DKA is life-threatening and can lead to brain oedema or a coma. This is why fast recognition of being “too high” is so important.

Insulin and Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone made in your pancreas. It helps your body use glucose (sugar) for energy.

Taking insulin helps you to manage your blood sugar levels.


To find out more about Insulin click here.