Diabetes affects around 6% of adults on the island of Ireland and numbers are continuing to rise.

What is diabetes?

As your body digests a meal, carbohydrates such as bread get broken down into sugars and absorbed into the bloodstream. The increase in blood sugars causes the release of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar), which then acts to lower blood sugars to a normal level again. Diabetes is a condition where the body does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot use the insulin that it does produce.

Type I and Type II diabetes

Only 10% of cases are Type I diabetes and the other 90% are Type II. Type I diabetes is a condition when the body is unable to produce any insulin and it usually appears in childhood or before the age of 30. It must be treated with insulin. It is unknown as to why some people develop type I diabetes, although it can be an inherited condition.

Type II diabetes is a gradual disease which can be affected by lifestyle. It develops when the body cannot produce enough insulin or the insulin produced can no longer work properly. Type II diabetes is a manageable disease with exercise, weight loss and medication. However this condition needs to be carefully monitored as in the long term it can create serious problems due to its effects on blood vessels. People who have Type II diabetes are much more likely to be at risk from heart disease and other circulation problems; diabetes is the most common cause of blindness and limb amputation.

Who is likely to develop Type II diabetes?

Statistics show that 80% of people diagnosed with type II diabetes are overweight. The more overweight and the more inactive you are the greater your risk. You are also more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • have a close relative with diabetes (such as a parent, brother or sister)
  • if your waist is over 80cm (32 inches) for women and 90cm (37 inches) for men
  • are over 40 years of age
  • are of Asian or African-Caribbean origin
  • have had diabetes during pregnancy
  • have high blood pressure or have had a heart attack or stroke

What can I do to lower my risk of developing type II?

There is no guaranteed way of preventing type II diabetes. However there are three main steps that can be taken to lower your risk:

Those with diabetes should see a registered Dietitian at diagnosis, then have regular reviews of their eating habits. If you are concerned or think you may have diabetes then contact your GP.

Our booklet Healthy Eating for people with Type II Diabetes (PDF, 1MB) has lots on information, tips and advice to manage Type II diabetes. This booklet was created by Dietitians at the Diabetes Federation of Ireland (DFI) and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI).

Further Information and support for those affected by diabetes can be found at Diabetes UK and at Diabetes Ireland.