Like siblings, they share a surname, but Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are as different as a blonde sister and her red-headed brother.
Both involve a misbehaving pancreas, and both require strict regulation of blood sugar levels. But whereas Type 1 cannot be prevented or cured, Type 2 can improve with modifications to lifestyle and diet. Because of this, Type 1s and Type 2s – and their research and education groups – often operate independently.
Not Diabetes UK, the leading diabetes charity in the United Kingdom, which offers information and advice for both Type 1 and Type 2 on its website, and which has recently paired up with a supermarket chain to address an alarming new Type 2 statistic it discovered.
The troubling number is this: Of the million or so people who have been diagnosed with Type 2 in the past four years, only 20 percent – one in five – have their diabetes under control.
When someone is diagnosed as T1, they go through a much different initiation to diabetes management. They’re armed with insulin and other lifestyle modifications that need to be implemented immediately, and it’s almost unimaginable that someone could live with uncontrolled diabetes for one year, let alone four.
But unlike insulin-dependent T1s, Type 2s can live for years with minimal intervention. But all the while, without proper management, people living with Type 2 are susceptible to the sudden onset of serious complications, including heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke, among others. And the more delay that goes into treating the condition, the harder it will be manage diabetes once they get down to business.
When Type 2 diabetes is minimally managed – or not managed at all – the body has to find a way to cope on its own. Research has shown that it does this by learning to function with increasingly elevated concentrations of blood sugar. Over time, the endocrine system will become so damaged by this fix that it will respond poorly – or not at all — to modifications in lifestyle and diet that could help.
Unlike Type 1, Type 2 diabetes is usually easily managed with lifestyle and diet changes and can improve over time, so there’s a huge benefit to getting blood sugar levels under control as quickly as possible. But according to recent research, a large percentage of newly diagnosed T2Ds aren’t getting the education that they need to effectively manage their diabetes.
Research from Diabetes UK suggests that only 14 percent of people are offered diabetes education when they are diagnosed. This is especially troubling, because as I discussed in a previous post, people who receive comprehensive diabetes education, particularly when offered within a group, have significantly better outcomes over time.
The good news is, Diabetes UK is stepping up to meet this enormous need, teaming up with the supermarket chain Tesco, to offer informational events called “Living with Diabetes Days.” And Tesco is holding fundraisers, like this one held recently in conjunction with the Tour de France, with proceeds going to Diabetes UK.
At the “Living with Diabetes” days, people with Type 2 can get information from diabetes experts and meet other people living with the condition. The day long events are scheduled in cities all over the UK, and it’s all free – including a T2-friendly lunch! To find a location near you, or to register, click here.