What are the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both occur when the body cannot properly store and use glucose, which is essential for energy. This glucose then collects in the blood and does not reach the cells that need it, leading to serious complications.

Below is a guide to some of the main differences between type 1 and type 2. 

 Type 1Type 2
What is happening?Your body attacks the cells in your pancreas which means it cannot make any insulin.Your body is unable to make enough insulin or the insulin produced doesn’t work properly.
Risk factorsFamily History / GeneticsEnvironmental factors e.g., exposure to viral illnessesPresence of damaging immune system cells (autoantibodies)Injury to the pancreasWeight. Being overweight or obese is a main risk.Fat distribution. Storing fat mainly in your abdomen — rather than your hips and thighs — indicates a greater risk.InactivityFamily history Race and ethnicityBlood lipid levels – high blood pressureAge – 45 years plusPrediabetesSmokerHistory of heart disease
SymptomsIncreased thirstFrequent urinationExtreme hungerUnexplained weight lossPresence of ketones in the urine FatigueIrritabilityBlurred visionSlow-healing soresFrequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections Increased thirst.Frequent urination.Increased hunger.Unintended weight loss.Fatigue.Blurred vision.Slow-healing sores.Frequent infections(Symptoms often appear slower and not linked to diabetes)
ManagementDaily insulin to control your blood sugar.Medication to control blood sugar levelsExercise and increase in activityDiet

Why does diabetes increase your risk of heart disease?

If your blood glucose levels are high over time, you are more likely to develop atheroma, a fatty material that builds up on the lining of the arteries. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Diabetes can also increase the damage done by some of the risk factors for CVD (Cardio Vascular Disease), including smoking, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

This is because your body can’t use all this sugar properly, so more of it sticks to your red blood cells and builds up in your blood. This build-up can block and damage the vessels carrying blood to and from your heart, starving the heart of oxygen and nutrients. So, keeping as close as possible to your target hemoglobin (HbA1c) level will help protect your blood vessels and in turn your heart. Even mildly raised blood sugar levels can, over time, put you more at risk.

The good news is that simple changes to your lifestyle, including diet, can help you to manage your diabetes as well as reduce your risk of CVD.

Managing your diabetes and your heart

We’ve talked about the link between high blood sugar levels and your heart health. But it’s not all down to blood sugars. Blood vessels are also damaged by high cholesterol (blood fats) and high blood pressure.

So you can help prevent damage to your blood vessels by looking after your:

·       blood sugar levels

·       blood pressure

·       cholesterol (blood fats)

Getting your HbA1c, cholesterol and blood pressure checked at least once a year are part of the checks you should have if you have diabetes. We invite you to speak to one of our doctors if you are not sure how soon you need these tests again. 

By managing these three things, you’ll be helping to manage your diabetes and protecting yourself against heart complications. But there are a few other things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Diabetes and heart attack

·       High cholesterol

If your cholesterol is too high, then the extra fat in your blood sticks to the walls of your blood vessels. Over time, this fat hardens and is known as plaque. Hard plaque can block up the blood vessels, which makes the space narrower and leaves less room for blood to flow.

This is called arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis and is the most common cause of a heart attack.

In the narrower space, blood flow slows down and causes some of the blood cells to group together and clot. If a blood clot breaks away, it will travel through your arteries and veins until it reaches a section too narrow to pass through, making it partially or completely blocked.

This can starve the heart of oxygen and nutrients, and this is what causes a heart attack.

·       High blood pressure

Not only does the blood struggle to flow through the blood vessels, but over time atherosclerosis makes the walls of your blood vessels more rigid and less elastic. This can lead to high blood pressure (also called hypertension) or make high blood pressure worse. 

High blood pressure puts extra strain on your blood vessels too. That’s on top of the strain from high cholesterol and high blood sugar.

Narrowing of the blood vessels can affect other parts of the body too, like your arms or legs. It’s called peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and if left untreated, can also lead to amputation. Find out more about reducing your risk of serious foot problems.

Make simple switches

A couple of easy changes in your diet can help.

1. From saturated to unsaturated fat

Having too much saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol levels, so it’s important to reduce the amount you eat and instead get fats from unsaturated sources.

Three tips to help get you started:

·       Swap butter and ghee for unsaturated vegetable oils and spreads such as sunflower, olive, rapeseed, or corn.

·       Trim visible fat from meat and remove the skin from chicken.

·       Choose lower-fat milk and dairy products and swap biscuits, cakes and chocolate for healthier snacks such as fruit.

Remember, fatty foods are high in energy (calories) and excess energy results in weight gain. To help you manage your weight, it’s also important to keep an eye on the total amount of fat you’re eating.

Different fat types have different effects on the body. Diets high in saturated fat are linked to higher levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. Having too much LDL increases the build-up of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart disease. Eating unsaturated fats instead of saturated fat helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in the blood.

2. Cut down on salt

Too much salt is linked with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for CVD. The recommendation for adults in the UK is to have no more than 6g a day – about a teaspoon.

Three tips to help get you started

·       Most of the salt we eat is already in processed foods. Check the labels and go for those with the lowest salt content. Learn how to read food labels to help  you make healthier choices.

·       Remove the saltshaker from the table, to stop you adding extra salt.

·       Try adding flavour to your food using herbs, spices, black pepper, and lemon juice in place of salt when cooking.

Still uncertain?

Getting the news that you have a debilitating illness that requires your constant attention can be overwhelming but, at German Heart Centre we have our team of specialists on standby to answer all your questions and support you with an individualized treatment plan.  Contact us to put your mind at rest.

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