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It’s time you took the time to avoid diabetes
Have you gained weight recently? Are you drinking more? Exercising less? Are you over 35? A type 2 diabetes test only takes a minute. We recommend talking to your doctor and getting checked.
For National Diabetes Week (9-15 July 2023), we have also compiled the following Q&A to explain what you need to know.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease involving elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar) which can lead, over time, to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. It is caused by the body having insufficient insulin, the key hormone that allows your cells to use glucose as energy.
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, where the body produces little or no insulin by itself.
- Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form of the disease usually developed by adults, where the body becomes resistant to insulin or does not make enough of it for healthy function.
In recent years, the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes has risen so dramatically it is now widely regarded as “the epidemic of the 21st century” and one of the major challenges confronting our health system.
Why should I worry about diabetes?
It is a nasty chronic disease requiring the need for constant management and treatment, including regular insulin doses, for survival. It also greatly reduces the life expectancy of people who suffer from it – according to most estimates by an average of around 20 years.
In Australia, nearly 2 million Australians have diabetes – over 7% of our total population! This includes 1.3 million known and registered sufferers of Types 1 and 2 Diabetes and an estimated 600,000 people who have undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes. Over 300 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes!
Who are the people most at risk?
The people most at risk of developing diabetes are those who:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a poor diet – especially consuming too much sugar, fatty or fried foods and fast food
- Do not do enough exercise or other physical activity
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are First Nations peoples or have Asian or Southern European backgrounds
- Are women with a history of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or who suffered from gestational diabetes during pregnancy
How do I assess my risk?
To assess your risk of developing diabetes, there are various assessment tools available online including this one from Diabetes Australia, developed by the Baker IDI Heart Diabetes Institute on behalf of the Australian, State and Territory Governments. However, Diabetes Australia and Ochre Health recommend talking to your doctor as the simplest and best way to understand your risk and what to do about it.
If I am at risk, can I avoid developing diabetes?
Yes, absolutely! Evidence shows Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented in up to 58% of high risk cases. The keys are early risk identification and changes in diet and lifestyle.
What can I do to reduce my risk?
To reduce your risk, Diabetes Australia and Ochre Health recommend:
- Regular visits to your doctor
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Making healthy food choices as outlined here for adults and here for children
- Regular physical activity as detailed here
How do I manage my diabetes?
If you suffer from diabetes, your doctor and healthcare team are the key people to help and support you in managing your disease and any other health conditions.
Your doctor will use an Annual Cycle of Care – a checklist designed to keep track of your management goals and to ultimately reduce your risk of complications. As part of your daily, weekly, monthly and annual diabetes management, your doctor and healthcare team will guide you through a series of regular checks and reviews, including:
- Self-monitoring of your glucose levels and how to administer insulin when needed
- HbA1c – a blood test used to monitor blood glucose control
- Cholesterol levels
- Eye checks
- Foot care
- Kidney health