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Men's Health Week and Diabetes Awareness Week

Updated: Jul 10


Men's Health Week and Diabetes Awareness Week

It's Men's Health Week this week (10th - 16th June 24) and it's all about improving the awareness of both the mental and physical health of men. It also coincides with Diabetes Awareness Week and so in this article we'll be discussing diabetes in general.


Diabetes 


Diabetes has a scientific name, ‘Diabetes Mellitus', and it is a big problem around the world. As more people become wealthy and consume increasing amounts of processed food and sugar, they also become less active and lead a more sedentary lifestyle. 537 million adults around the world are living with diabetes and this figure is predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030.


It's estimated that there are 4.4 million people living with diabetes in the UK  and another 1.2 million could be living with diabetes, but they just don't know about it. Way back in 1996 it was about 3 million people with diabetes and therefore we've seen a massive increase in just under three decades.


People of South Asian origin (Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis), Black Afro-Caribbean and Chinese are much more likely to develop diabetes at a lower weight compared to the white population. If you’re a man, you may fare worse, as you’re much more likely to have amputations or die prematurely from the complications of diabetes.


So, what is diabetes exactly?


You have diabetes if your blood sugar is too high. To explain how this might come about we need to go back to basic biology from school. The food that you eat is broken down in your digestive system into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream - this is where the term ‘ blood sugar’, comes from. This sugar is then absorbed by your cells which provides fuel for your body to continue your daily activities. Your pancreas is an organ that sits behind the stomach and produces a hormone called insulin. This hormone helps the blood sugar go into the cells and therefore control it, so that they're not too high or too low.


When you develop diabetes, you either don’t produce very much insulin, or any insulin that you do produce doesn't work very well.  This is called Type 2 diabetes. Sometimes you don't produce any insulin at all, and this results in Type 1 diabetes, where you will require insulin for the rest of your life.


Type 1 diabetes versus Type 2 diabetes


As we've already discussed you stop producing insulin completely in Type 1 diabetes. This often starts in childhood, or as a young adult, and it's thought to be an autoimmune reaction (antibodies being produced against your own cells in the pancreas). It's usually sudden in onset and you can lose a lot of weight when you develop Type 1 diabetes.


In type 2 diabetes, you might produce some insulin, but it doesn’t seem to be work very well and so your blood sugars creeper over a period of time. The onset is more gradual and tends to occur in people who are overweight, although if you belong to some at risk groups, like South Asians, you can end up being diabetic without being hugely overweight. Therefore people develop type 2 diabetes because of ‘insulin resistance’ - where the body cells become unresponsive to the actions of insulin.


What are the symptoms and signs of diabetes I should be looking out for?


The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes can vary, so let's take each one in turn.


Type 1 diabetes 

This usually occurs in a younger age group but not always, as some adults are diagnosed later in life.


This could happen very suddenly often over a period of days. You may have had a recent viral infection and following this you may become very thirsty and pass large volumes of urine. You often lose weight rapidly and can become unwell fairly quickly. Some people can develop a severe life-threatening complication called diabetic ketoacidosis which warrants urgent hospital treatment.


Type 2 diabetes

This tends to occur in older people and is more gradual in onset. You can have type 2 diabetes for years before you realise you have it, or it’s finally diagnosed. 


Common symptoms include: 

  • Feeling thirsty 

  • Peeing lots especially at night

  • Blurred vision 

  • Tiredness

  • Recurrent skin infections and boils 

  • You may develop thrush you may develop fungal infections like thrush

  • Men may have problems with erections and/or a lack of sexual drive

  • Cuts and wounds that heal very slowly

  • Weight and muscle loss



So am I at risk of diabetes?


Most of us are to some extent, given our modern and sedentary western lifestyle. You are however, particularly at risk if you are:


  • Of South Asian origin [Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi Chinese] oh black Caribbean or black African

  • Over the age of 40 years but younger if you are Asian 

  • Overweight, that particularly around the ‘middle’

  • Have a sedentary lifestyle

  • Have high blood pressure

  • Smoke


I might have diabetes, how is it diagnosed?


Diabetes can be diagnosed with a urine sample but for a proper diagnosis, a fasting blood sugar or a HbA1c level is required. HbA1c level is the amount of sugar that's attached to the haemoglobin molecule within red blood cells. It gives a better reflection of what your overall blood sugar levels have been like over the last three months before the test.


If I get diabetes, So what? Is it serious?


Yes, it is. According to Diabetes UK, every week diabetes leads to 184 amputations, more than 930 strokes, 660 heart attacks and 2990 cases of heart failure.


Diabetes can affect the large arteries of your body which can get clogged up. If the arteries supplying blood to your heart get blocked then you are at risk of a heart attack. Any arteries that supply your brain can cause stroke.


Diabetes can also cause damage to the small blood vessels in several different organs.


Nerves and blood vessels in your legs and feet

Your nerves can be affected, and this can result in numbness, weakness, loss of function of your limbs and ultimately, amputation.


Eyes

Damage to blood vessels at the back of your eye can lead to blindness.


Kidneys 

Your kidneys are important in clearing and getting rid of waste products from your body but damage to the blood vessels in the kidney can cause kidney failure.

 

Sexual function 

During sexual activity men need an adequate blood flow to their penis to maintain erections. Damage to the small blood vessels supplying the penis can cause impotence (lack of erections)


So, as you can see diabetes is on the rise, it's often under-diagnosed or diagnosed very late. If left untreated or poorly managed then it can cause severe damage to several organs like your nerves, eyes heart, brain, kidney and affect your sexual function. 


But it can be diagnosed, controlled and treated so that you can live with diabetes and even excel in life.


Famous people with diabetes and their achievements


  • Steve Redgrave - four times Olympic gold medal winner in rowing 

  • Gary Mabbutt - England footballer and FA cup winner with Tottenham Hotspur

  • Hale Berry - Hollywood actress

  • Nick Jonas - Musician




Can I prevent diabetes?


Yes, and it mostly depends on the type of diabetes that you have. You can't do much about type one diabetes, it's just the luck of the draw in life. But you can go a long way in either preventing, delaying or even reversing type 2 diabetes. The following will help you:




OK so where do I go to get tested for diabetes?


If you're concerned that you might have diabetes you can see your family doctor [GP] for a test or ask if you can have a free over 40s NHS check. This is a comprehensive set of tests looking at your blood pressure, cholesterol levels complete glucose and your body mass index. Once they've done these tests, they will calculate a risk of you developing heart problems or a stroke within the next 10 years.


Alternatively, why not book a diabetes test at Health Klinix? We’re offering a 10% discount for the whole of June 2024. We would be happy to help and answer any questions that you might have. 


As it’s Men’s Health Week, we’ve also got 10% discount on a  Well Man Blood Test. To make it fair and equitable, we’ve extended the 10% discount on a Well Woman Blood test too.

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