Diabetes, or high blood sugar, is Australia’s fastest-growing chronic condition. About 1.5million Australians are currently living with diabetes. It occurs when the body is unable to use blood glucose effectively for energy, resulting in high levels of blood sugar. The hormone insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy, but in diabetes, insulin production is either not sufficient or what is available does not work properly. It is a serious condition and can lead to severe organ damage and reduced life expectancy. You can do a lot to prevent or manage diabetes—lifestyle change such a healthy diet and increased exercise are essential in successful control of diabetes.
If unmanaged, diabetes results in damage to body organs via: heart disease and stroke, disorders of circulation (leading to gangrene and amputation), nerve damage, kidney disease, vision disorders and impotence. Diabetes may reduce life expectancy by 10–20 years and is the biggest challenge to the Australian health system, with 280 new diagnoses daily to a cost of an estimated $14.6 billion annually.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood and thought to be due to destruction of insulin producing cells.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and is classified a modifiable lifestyle disease associated with high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats and a classical ‘apple-shaped’ body.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born.
While there is no single cause for the development of type 2 diabetes, there are well-known risk factors which are:
- increasing age
- family history
- ethnic backgrounds
- polycystic ovarian syndrome in women are unchangeable risk factors for diabetes.
Modifiable risk factors include:
- an unhealthy diet
- not enough exercise
- and as a consequence, increased weight, especially around the waist.
Diabetes develops gradually over time. Some signs and symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst, tiredness, slow healing, blurred vision, dizziness, mood swings and skin infections. Although diagnosis of diabetes is through a blood test (examining blood glucose you can check your risk by using the AUSDRISK Assessment tool, a simple questionnaire devised for Australians that will calculate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
For more information about diabetes and best treatment options, check out our full article on diabetes here.