Diabetes Awareness

Taking The Pressure Off Diabetes

Worldwide, the number of adults with diabetes has more than doubled over the past 30 years. According to a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in conjunction with the World Health Organisation, almost 350 million people now have the fastest-growing chronic health condition. These are sobering statistics at the time of Diabetes Awareness Week (8 -14 July).

Australia is not immune to this epidemic. More than 1 million Australians have been diagnosed as having diabetes; and it’s estimated that at least another 2 million people over the age of 25 have what is known as impaired glucose tolerance or “pre-diabetes”- making them at greatly increased risk of diabetes itself.

Uncontrolled diabetes poses a serious risk to our health. Complications can include blindness, kidney failure and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, this year, the focus of Diabetes Awareness Week is the relationship between diabetes and a heart health.

Diabetes, commonly called sugar diabetes, is the name given to the condition where our body is unable to use glucose properly – and glucose is our major energy source; the fuel which keeps our body functioning effectively.

There are two major forms of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood or young adulthood – possibly because the body’s immune system runs a bit wild and attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas gland. As the body stops making insulin, people with this form of diabetes need daily doses of insulin - by injection or one of the new insulin pumps.

However, type 2 diabetes is the form of diabetes likely to affect most Australians (in type 2, insulin is produced, but we just can’t use it effectively). Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in older adults – it used to be called maturity onset diabetes – but increasingly the condition is affecting younger people. Family history is one reason.

Of course our parents are not totally to blame. Family history is just one risk factor. Lifestyle issues are also highly significant. Overweight and obese adults are two to four times more likely to suffer from diabetes. And we now know that high blood pressure is another major risk factor for diabetes; so controlling our blood pressure will not only reduce the risk of heart disease, but also reduce the risk of diabetes and its serious complications.

Lifestyle changes are the key to reducing the risks of and treating high blood pressure and diabetes, said Dr Neville Howard, President of the Australian Diabetes Council. This should involve healthy eating, regular exercise (30 minutes daily for at least 5 days a week), drinking lots of water, reduced salt intake, alcohol in moderation (no more than two standard drinks per day) and no smoking.

You can check your own risk of becoming a diabetes statistic via the Australian Diabetes Council website: www.australiandiabetescouncil.com Click on “What is My Risk?”

Of course, most of us will benefit from weight loss. Losing 5-7% of excess fat, and moderate exercise two and a half hours per week, will help regulate our blood pressure and reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes by 60%.

Every time we visit the doctor we should get our blood pressure checked. And, especially if we’re over 40, even if we seem otherwise healthy, we should make sure we have at least a yearly check up.