Diabetes. It’s a terrible price to pay for our massively changed convenience diet and inactive lifestyle.
Type 2 Diabetes is one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic and according to Diabetes New Zealand is New Zealand’s fastest-growing health crisis. In terms of diabetes diagnosis, Type 2 currently accounts for around 90% of all cases. Also of concern to health professionals is that there are large numbers of people with silent, undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes which may be damaging their bodies. An estimated 258,000 New Zealanders are estimated to have some form of diabetes, with than number doubling over the past decade.
It is estimated a further one in four New Zealanders has prediabetes and a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has mandated November 14 as World Diabetes Day, an international event to raise awareness about diabetes. Close to 350 million people in the world have diabetes and WHO reports that a person dies from this disease every 6 seconds – that’s 5 million deaths. Currently 1 in 11 adults have diabetes worldwide and this is predicted to increase to 1 adult in 10 (652 million) by 2040. Sobering statistics indeed.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or when it cannot effectively use the insulin it does produce to help the body metabolize the sugar that is formed from the food we eat.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar, which gives us the energy we need to live. Unable to get into the cells to be burned as energy, the sugar can build up to harmful levels in the blood.
There are three forms of the disease. People with Type 1 Diabetes typically make none of their own insulin and therefore require insulin injections for survival. People with Type 2 Diabetes, the form that comprises the majority of all cases, usually produce their own insulin, but not enough or they are unable to use it properly. Then there is Gestational Diabetes; globally, 1 in 7 births is affected by gestational diabetes. While maternal blood glucose levels usually return to normal after the baby is born, there is an increased risk of both mother and child developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
Diabetes is serious
Diabetes can be managed well but if it is not managed well, the possible complications are the same for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes including heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, anxiety and blindness.
We know diabetes:
- Is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults
- Is a leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis
- Increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to 4 times
- Is a major cause of limb amputations
- Affects mental health as well as physical health. Depression, anxiety and distress occur in more than 30% of all people with diabetes
Early diagnosis, optimal treatment and effective ongoing support and management reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. Even people with insulin-dependent Type 1 Diabetes can live long and healthy lives if they keep their blood sugars under tight control.
About World Diabetes Day
World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat of diabetes. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2007.
The date of 14 November has been set every year to mark the birthday of Fredrick Banting who together with Charles Best made the discoveries that led to the development of insulin in 1921. Expect to see heaps of blue on this day, as the global symbol for diabetes, the blue circle, appears everywhere to help raise awareness of this disease.
World Diabetes Day puts the focus on healthy lifestyle and healthy eating, which is a key factor in managing Type 1 Diabetes and helping to manage and prevent Type 2 Diabetes.
New Zealand celebrates Diabetes Action Month – and the results of last year’s risk factor assessment highlight the importance of getting involved: Last year, more than 3,500 people undertook an assessment of their risk factors during the month, with 68% learning they potentially have a greater propensity for type 2 diabetes. The core purpose of the first Diabetes Action Month was to alert New Zealand that everyone is at risk of diabetes. Activities in November included a national roadshow that visited 33 locations in 14 towns and cities, and the launch of an online version of the risk awareness tool, so everyone could assess their risk
Healthy living starts at breakfast
World Diabetes Day encourages healthy living and that means there’s a focus on starting each day right by having a healthy breakfast.
A healthy breakfast should help to prevent blood sugar levels from getting too high and should keep you full through the morning. Whilst cereal and toast may be cheap, these options typically raise blood sugar levels rapidly and may leave you hungry again before lunch.
Tip: If you drink fruit juice for breakfast, consider cutting the juice out or having a smaller glass of it. For reference, a 150ml glass of unsweetened orange juice contains around 15g of carbohydrate and 13g of sugar.
Having a healthy lifestyle includes daily physical activity which can prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes. There are plenty of organised activities you can take part in such as Walk to Work, but you can also do your own thing and get moving with family and friends in any way you like. It’s most important to remember that activity is for life, not just one day. Regular physical activity could include walking, riding a bike, dancing or swimming.
Maintain a healthy weight
One of the most important aspects of diabetes management is to maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight not only increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers, it also makes your diabetes harder to manage. Small changes in your diet such as reducing your portion sizes and swapping to low-fat dairy products can help you to achieve a healthy body weight and manage your diabetes.
A small weight loss (5-10% of body weight) can make a big difference and, as a consequence, reduce your risk of developing complications.
If you have pre-diabetes (impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance), losing 5-10% of your current body weight can prevent type 2 diabetes in up to nearly 6 out of 10 people.
So what does 5-10% of your body weight mean in real terms? For a 100kg person this would mean losing 5-10 kg.
Diabetes symptoms: what to look for
In Type 1 Diabetes, symptoms are often sudden and can be life-threatening; therefore it is usually diagnosed quite quickly. In Type 2 Diabetes, many people have no symptoms at all, while other signs can go unnoticed, being seen as part of ‘getting older’. Therefore, by the time symptoms are noticed, complications of diabetes may already be present.
Common symptoms 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
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice or used to alter medical therapy. Check with your GP for your individual medical needs.