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Diabetes Week: tips for a full life and having a safe fast during Ramadan

13Diabetes Week runs from June 14-20 and is seen as a time to bring supporters together to increase awareness and provide further advice, support and information on the condition.

The national campaign, led by Diabetes UK, is encouraging people to share their hints, tips and stories of how they manage their condition and still live life to the full, using hashtag #DiabetesandMe on social media.

Diabetes is a long-term condition that occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels becomes too high. There are two kinds of diabetes known as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is less common and can develop very quickly over the course of weeks or even days, particularly in children and young people.

Type 2 diabetes is very common in Tower Hamlets with over 14,000 residents living with this condition. It is estimated that over 2000 individuals living in the borough have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed.¹

However with early diagnosis and expert care people suffering from diabetes can lead normal, healthy lives.

Dr Somen Banerjee, director of public health at Tower Hamlets Council said: “Over 70 per cent of Type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented or delayed by adopting healthier lifestyles.

“As Ramadan starts during Diabetes Week this year, it should be seen as an opportunity to focus on eating a healthy diet, stopping smoking and increasing physical activity, after the month-long fast. Anyone with diabetes who is thinking of fasting during Ramadan should speak to their GP or practice nurse to discuss how to keep well.”

Suggestions for food to eat when breaking fast include:

• Complex carbohydrates: foods that will help release energy slowly during fasting and are found in grains and seeds, like barley, wheat, oats, cereals, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, basmati rice, etc

• Fibre-rich foods are also digested slowly; these include bran, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin, all types of bread and breakfast cereals, vegetables such as green beans and fruit such as apricots, prunes or figs

•    Protein such as lean meat, fish, eggs, lentils

•    Vegetables and fresh fruit

Locally, health professionals have been delivering training sessions for those that work with Muslims planning to fast to provide further information on the causes of diabetes and how to keep healthy throughout the holy month.

Research shows  the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is six times higher for people of South Asian origin compared to those of a European descent.² The large South Asian population in Tower Hamlets contributes to the high rates of Type 2 diabetes found in the borough.

Type 2 diabetes is preventable and is strongly linked to being overweight. If not managed well, diabetes can lead to complications such as blindness, lower limb amputation, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. Type 2 is also the most common form of diabetes and tends to develop gradually, which can make spotting the signs more difficult. In fact, 95 per cent of people living with diabetes in Tower Hamlets have Type 2 diabetes.

Regular symptoms for both types of diabetes include:

• increased urination
• increased thirst
• tiredness,
• dry mouth
• and unexplained weight loss.

Health trainers will be working across the community to identify people who may be at risk of diabetes and advise them accordingly.