Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system. Our advice to you this National Diabetes Week (9-11 July) is that focusing on improving diabetes knowledge in relation to prevention, early detection and management enhances health outcomes and will ultimately save lives.
One HSS Health Coach and Registered Nurse explained there is a cautionary message for everyone in the National Diabetes Week Campaign’s “It’s About Time” theme.
“It’s About Time we did a better job of detecting all types of diabetes,” she affirmed. “Australia needs to act to detect diabetes earlier and save lives.
“Too many Australians are being diagnosed with type 1 and type 2 diabetes too late. A delay in diagnosis is putting many people at risk of major life-threatening health problems.”
Ten things it’s about time you knew about diabetes…
- Diabetes is a serious complex condition which can affect the entire body. When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a form of sugar which is the main source of energy for our bodies.
- For our bodies to work properly we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. Insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy. In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body.
- When people with diabetes eat glucose, which is in foods such as breads, cereals, fruit and starchy vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and sweets, it can’t be converted into energy.
- Instead of being turned into energy glucose stays in the blood resulting in high blood glucose levels. Unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to long-term and short-term health complications.
- It is not one condition – there are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
- Diabetes requires daily self-care and if complications develop, diabetes can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy.
- While there is currently no cure for diabetes, you can live an enjoyable life by learning about the condition and effectively managing it. Management of diabetes attempts to restore blood glucose levels to near-normal using combinations of diet, exercise, drugs and insulin therapy.
- Diabetes does not discriminate, anyone can develop diabetes.
- Diabetes is serious. If not managed well, potential complications from diabetes can include heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, anxiety and blindness.
- Early diagnosis, optimal treatment and effective ongoing support and management reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.
What are the common symptoms of diabetes?
In type 1 diabetes, symptoms are often sudden and can be life-threatening resulting often in a quick diagnosis on seeking medical attention. In type 2 diabetes, many people have no symptoms at all, while other signs can go unnoticed with people dismissing the symptoms as ‘part of getting older’.
By the time symptoms are noticed, complications of diabetes may already be present. Common symptoms to be aware of include…
- Being more thirsty than usual.
- Passing more urine.
- Feeling tired and lethargic.
- Always feeling hungry.
- Having cuts that heal slowly.
- Itching, skin infections.
- Blurred vision.
- Unexplained weight loss (type 1).
- Gradually putting on weight (type 2).
- Mood swings.
- Feeling dizzy.
- Leg cramps.
Am I at risk of developing diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is associated with modifiable lifestyle risk factors, but also has strong genetic and family related risk factors. Your age, gender, descent, country of origin, family history, personal health history, body type, diet and lifestyle all play a factor in your risk of developing diabetes.
Some important questions in relation to your risk of developing diabetes are…
- Do you have a family history of diabetes?
- Are you older (over 55 years of age) – the risk increases as we age?
- Are you over 45 years of age and overweight?
- Are you over 45 years of age and have high blood pressure?
- Are you over 35 years of age with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background?
- Are you over 35 years of age with Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background?
- Are you a woman who has given birth to a child over 4.5 kgs (9 lbs), or had gestational diabetes when pregnant, or had a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Diabetes Australia has developed a Risk Calculator based on the Australian type 2 diabetes risk test (AUSDRISK). It is a simple and easy way to assess your risk or developing type 2 diabetes.
To find out your risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the next five years, click on the link to take the simple test today! https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/risk-calculator
Why are more people getting diabetes today?
All types of diabetes are increasing in prevalence. Type 2 diabetes is increasing at the fastest rate. There are large numbers of people with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes which may be damaging their bodies.
An estimated 2 million Australians are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and are already showing early signs of the condition. Type 2 diabetes is one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic.
The combination of massive changes to diet and the food supply, combined with massive changes to physical activity with more sedentary work and less activity, means most populations are seeing more type 2 diabetes.
Genes also play a part with higher risk of type 2 diabetes in Chinese, South Asian, Indian, Pacific Islander and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
Top tips on diabetes prevention…
Currently type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. Researchers are investigating the autoimmune process and environmental factors that lead people to develop type 1 diabetes to help prevent it in the future.
Our HSS Health Coach and Registered Nurse explained there is strong international evidence which shows diabetes prevention programs can help prevent type 2 diabetes in up to 58 per cent of cases.
“Lifestyle change is your biggest weapon,” she emphasised. “You can do a lot to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
“People at risk of type 2 diabetes can delay and even prevent the condition by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and following a healthy eating plan.
“Managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels along with not smoking are also preventative measures.
“If it comes down to it, a diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes is not the end of the world.
“Much can be done in relation to lifestyle changes and general management. The most important thing is early screening and arming yourself with knowledge.
“Know your numbers and take responsibility for your own health. Build the support network of trusted health professionals, family and friends that you need behind you.”
HSS provide a range of in-home services to achieve the very best health and quality of life outcomes for our customers. Contact us for more information on how HSS can assist you prevent or manage diabetes through our Health Coaching, Home Rehabilitation, Home Nursing (in-home Registered/Nursing Specialists), Dietitians and Nutrition Advice.
For more general information on diabetes in Australia (including prevention, risk factors, signs or symptoms and management) see the comprehensive Diabetes Australia website.
Information in this article is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please seek medical attention if you have experienced possible symptoms of diabetes. Remember early detection saves lives!