Today (June 11th 2017) marks the start of Diabetes Week. An annual event organised by Diabetes UK, it aims to raise awareness of one of the UK’s most prevalent and costly health conditions.
This year the charity’s theme is Know Diabetes. Fight Diabetes. One aim is to encourage those diagnosed with diabetes to share their experience and knowledge to help others.
Another is to fight the disease and the people diagnosed with it.
Awareness of both forms of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2 – have already been raised in recent weeks.
During the election campaign, Theresa May spoke of living with Type 1 diabetes, the form of the disease which is usually diagnosed in childhood. It is caused by the immune system destroying the cells that produce insulin, the hormone that helps the body process sugars.
The Conservative leader told ITV’s Robert Peston that she needs inject herself with insulin four or five times daily to normalise her blood sugar levels.
As reported by The Mirror, the PM pointed out that those injections soon become routine and commented: “Being a diabetic doesn’t stop you from doing anything.”
Meanwhile, over in soap-land, Eastenders’ Ian Beale was told by his GP last month that’d he’d developed Type 2 diabetes.
The revelation is part of a wider plot arc. Ian had previously been warned he was at risk of developing the disease – referred to as pre-diabetes – and tried to adjust his lifestyle to prevent its onset.
Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in adulthood, can have genetic roots but age, fitness and obesity are the significant risk factors. It occurs when the body either cannot produce enough insulin or cells fail to react to it.
Most people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are aged over 40 with being overweight or obese another not necessarily unrelated indicator. After all, it’s not uncommon for us to put on the pounds as we grow older and less active. This was Ian’s downfall. That and a lack of willpower which saw him unable to avoid those unhealthy foods or take a little more exercise.
Not for the first time it will be dramatic construction rather than real life that is likely to play the bigger role in education and prevention.
As Ian’s story unfolds it will reach millions. It will also detail what it’s like to live with a disease that, unlike Type 1, is often preventable.
In England alone Diabetes UK estimates some five million people are at risk of developing Type 2. The charity warns that on current trends, by 2034 one in ten of us will experience in real life, just what Ian Beale has in fictional Walford.
The question then will be whether those of us lazily curled up on the sofa watching Eastenders will be jolted into action by the unfurling plot?
In the field of private medical insurance, the simple answer is pretty much “no.” But the better question, is “Can you insure against diabetes?”
When it comes to Type 2, we can help ourselves reduce the risk of what is becoming an increasingly prevalent disease. We can eat and live more healthily.
Here private health insurance can help.
Many health insurers offer discounted gym memberships as a policy benefit. They include Aviva, AXA PPP Healthcare, BUPA, Simply Health, Vitality and WPA. Quids off is a decent incentive to get on that treadmill!
Many company medical insurance schemes incorporate wellbeing programmes. These are designed to help scheme members help themselves. Many feature online portals crammed with information on topics like diet and nutrition, how to keep a healthy heart as well as health and exercise tips.
They can also provide telephone access to the advice, support and reassurance of health and medical experts.
Regular medical checks and screenings can also help identify those at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Whilst it can be managed, the condition is not reversible, so prevention is the only cure.
Early diagnosis – indeed diagnosis at the pre-diabetes stage – is crucial. A key warning light is a higher than normal blood sugar level.
This can be detected by a simple blood test and action then taken to address it. It’s the kind of action Ian Beale should have taken, but didn’t.
The key message to take away from Diabetes Week is that you can stop yourself from becoming part of that worrying statistical trend. Maybe you just need a little incentive?