Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health care system. Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, this includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated).
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the name given to a group of different conditions where the body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose, which is a sugar found in the blood. When this glucose builds up in the blood, it leads to high blood glucose levels which are the cause of the serious health problems that are linked to diabetes.
People at risk of diabetes or living with diabetes face a number of challenges, however it’s important to recognise that you can have diabetes and have no signs and symptoms.
The most common symptoms are:
- feeling very thirsty
- urinating frequently, particularly at night
- feeling very tired
- weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
- weight gain and above average BMI
*If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms please see your GP for further investigations and health screening.
You can also use the Diabetes Australia Risk Calculator to assess your risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the next five years: www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/risk-calculator
What’s the problem with diabetes?
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, circulation problems, lower limb amputations, nerve damage and damage to the kidneys and eyes.
Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia, and we have more than 4,400 amputations every year as a result of diabetes, with more than 1700 people with diabetes dying as a direct result of foot ulcers and lower limb wounds, all of which can be prevented.
As the number of people with diabetes continues to rise across the world and in Australia, the total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia is estimated at $14.6 billion to the taxpayer.
What causes diabetes?
Increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes is associated with higher levels of urbanisation, ageing populations and unhealthy lifestyles including insufficient physical activity and a higher consumption of unhealthy foods. The causes of the increased incidence of type 1 diabetes are not yet clear. While there is no single cause of type 2 diabetes, there are well-established risk factors. Some risk factors can be controlled and others you are born with.
We know that prevention is the way to help reduce type 2 diabetes worldwide, so we are committed to educating our community the steps they can take to reduce their risk of the disease – regular health screening with a GP to monitor blood glucose levels is an important place to start.
What you can do to prevent diabetes
Healthy lifestyle choices including eating a whole food, balanced diet and doing regular physical activity are the most important preventive factors for people at risk of type 2 diabetes. Clinical trials conducted over the past two decades clearly show that the prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes is possible through these lifestyle modifications. Oral medicines and insulin may also be prescribed to help control blood glucose levels when needed.
Having plenty of fresh vegetables and high fibre grains or cereal products every day, good quality lean grass fed protein and a small amount of fats and oils such as monounsaturated oils, like olive oil can help reduce the risk of diabetes/ reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.
- Use our Healthy food guidelines and serving sizes to balance your food portions size and intake.
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to at least two serves of fruit per day and five serves of vegetables per day, try to go for the colours of the rainbow to increase your diversity of nutrients and help turn your food into medicine.
- Eat regular meals throughout the day – don’t skip meals – and always start the day by eating a healthy breakfast. In some cases intermittent fasting can be supportive but talk to your health care provider first to see if you qualify to do intermittent fasting safely.
- Reduce processed and refined foods from your diet, this includes most foods that you will find in a bakery or in a packet like lollies, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, pastries, soft drinks, chips, pies, sausage rolls and other takeaways or junk food.
- Reduce or avoid simple sugars – most processed and refined foods mentioned above contain refined sugars and these also include adding sugar or honey to hot drinks and food. 5grams or 1x tsp of sugar or honey per day is ok.
- Reduce the intake of alcohol and avoid smoking.
*Please note that this is a guide only and food requirements can differ between people for many reasons including; pregnancy, breastfeeding, health conditions, chronic disease, specific training, specific medications, ethnic and genetic background, age and more.
Increasing your physical activity reduces the risk and can reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount. Choose from:
- Low/medium intensity exercise – 5 days per week for 30-60 minutes. For example, walking, golf, yoga, tennis.
- Higher intensity exercise– 3 days per week for 20-40 minutes. For example, running, swimming, hill walking.
- Strength training – 3 days per week for 8-12 exercises of 8-12 reps.
Regular exercise is the key – the following tips can help ensure you keep it up:
- Do something you like – swimming, walking, biking, aqua or group exercise.
- Set aside time each day to do at least one activity.
- Get the family onside to help and join in with you to make it more fun.
- Start small and be consistent – little and often over the long haul is sustainable.
- Ensure you do some strength training, use a qualified professional to help guide you towards what is right for your body.
Manage your weight
Managing weight and waist measurement monitoring is also supportive in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. This can be maintained by increasing physical activity, stabilising healthy eating habits and improving healthy meal choices.
Where your body fat is stored may indicate an increased risk for chronic disease. People who carry fat around their waist (apple shaped) are advised to monitor this area and using a measuring tape is a good way to keep an eye on it.
Measuring your waist is easy:
- Measure directly against your skin.
- Breathe out.
- Make sure the tape is snug, without compressing the skin.
- Measure halfway between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bone, roughly in line with your belly button.
As a general rule of thumb, a waist measurement higher than the following may be associated with an increased risk of chronic disease.
Men: more than 94 centimetres
Women: more than 80 centimetres
Greatly increased risk:
Men: more than 102 centimetres
Women: more than 88 centimetres
*Please note that this is only a guide and measurements can differ between ethnic groups and ages. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to your GP.
Call (02) 6684 1511 now to book a preventative health screen with your GP or to see one of our allied health team to help prevent and manage diabetes .