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The diabetes problem

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

Around 3.9 million people in the UK are known to have type 2 diabetes mellitus - about 7% of the adult population. Another one million or so have type 2 diabetes and are unaware of it. Around 90% of adults with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Someone who is very overweight is around five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than a person with a healthy weight. People with high blood pressure have a higher risk of developing diabetes too.

With diabetes, the body does not properly process food for use as energy. In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin because the insulin producing cells (the b-cells) have been destroyed by the body’s immune system. In type 2 diabetes the b-cells are not able to produce enough insulin for the body’s needs – and many have some degree of resistance to insulin.


Some people with diabetes have no symptoms. Others may notice that they have increased thirst or pass large amounts of urine. Some may feel more tired than usual or may have blurred eyesight or genital itching or thrush.


What is pre-diabetes?

It is a condition which is a step before type 2 diabetes. Someone with pre-diabetes has blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. If left untreated, pre-diabetes can progress into type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes is generally asymptomatic. Pre-diabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes (especially regaining a healthy weight for someone who is overweight or obese).


So get a healthy lifestyle

As well as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and drinking water regularly, eating a balanced diet is key to maintaining/ losing weight, therefore, making your body respond better to insulin and keeping your blood sugars in the recommended range. See how John managed to gain much better control over his diabetes by changing his lifestyle habits to include much more regular exercise as well as eating more healthily.

John’s story of how his healthy lifestyle has improved his diabetes John (aged 70 years old) runs a diabetes patient group and wanted to be a role model for the many members who were overweight or obese. So he accepted a challenge to walk one million steps over a three months period in 2021 which he hoped would shift his weight from 90.2kgms and improve his body mass index (BMI) from 28.4kgm/m2 in April 2020. He had had type 2 diabetes for many years and was prescribed metformin 850mg x 3 per day and sitagliptin 100mg once a day when he started his physical activity challenge. Three months later after walking 611 miles in autumn 2021 (nearly 7 miles a day on average, much more than the goal he set himself of just over 4 miles a day) his weight was 84kgms and BMI 26.2kg/m2. His HbA1c blood levels reflected his improved health and fell from 48.6 to 44 mmol/ml. More than two years on from John’s starting point, his weight is sustained at 79.7kgms and his BMI 24.8kg/m2; and he is still walking more than 11,000 steps (around five miles) per day on average! His latest HbA1c blood test is 42.1mmol/ml (a normal level!!) and his blood pressure is well controlled now too at an average of 124/64 mmHg (a good level for someone with diabetes). Wow!!


What digital aids can help?

The NHS Weight Loss Plan app - keep track of your eating habits, and develop a healthier, more active lifestyle with this easy to follow weight-loss plan. Follow 12 informative weekly NHS guides to help you towards maintaining a balanced diet, and use the daily diary to monitor what you’re eating and keep to a recommended calorie target.


There is an in-app BMI calculator and help you set a healthy calorie target that’s right for you. Each weekly guide has actions, hints and tips for reaching your goal. To keep track of your progress you can log the food and calories you eat at each meal in the dairy, and you can record your weight each week to monitor your weight-loss.


The app is available at:



Or search for ‘NHS Weight Loss Plan’ on the App Store or Google Play.


Digital aids & websites

If you want to know more about what digital aids you can use for your own health and wellbeing and weigh up your choices, take a look at: https://www.digihealthwell.co.uk


Or go to https://www.england.nhs.uk/diabetes/diabetes-prevention to find out if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes as part of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. You’ll answer a few questions via the ‘Know Your Risk’ tool at: www.diabetes.org.uk/risk

For more detail take look at this handbook if you want to know more about how easy and useful digital aids can be matched for someone with diabetes or pre-diabetes to the purpose they want it for, such as healthy eating, regular exercise, better sleep and much more: Chambers R, Ogunmekan S, Ruiz-Martin M, Stather P. Digital aids for self-care of your health and wellbeing; prediabetes and diabetes edition. ISBN 9798837474897.

Amazon kindle & paperback July ’22. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B46F8WXM

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