Diabetes: The invisible condition

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Did you know that as many as three in five Victorians are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is an invisible condition. A combination of genetics, lifestyle choices and demographic can all contribute to one’s risk, however anybody can be susceptible to developing the disease regardless of shape, size, age, gender identity or ethnicity.

The good news is, according to Life Program around 60 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented or delayed by making small changes to your lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and being active.

In support of National Diabetes Week and its theme ‘Invisible condition’ taking place from 9 – 15 July, find out below how to measure your own risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and how you can prevent it.

What is type 2 diabetes?

As explained by Diabetes Victoria, type 2 diabetes is a condition where the beta cells in the pancreas still make insulin, but it may not make enough, or the insulin that is being made does not do its job properly. As a result, the gates of the cells cannot open to let the glucose in. This is called insulin resistance. If glucose cannot enter the cells, it builds up in the blood stream and causes blood glucose levels to rise. This is called diabetes.

Symptoms

According to the Better Health Channel, about half of those people who have type 2 diabetes have not yet been diagnosed. Diabetes often has no symptoms, making it even more of a risk to those who don’t regularly monitor their health.

Often by the time symptoms are noticed, blood glucose levels can be very high. Common symptoms include:

  • Higher levels of thirst
  • Passing more urine
  • Lower energy levels
  • Itching, skin infections and slow-healing wounds
  • Blurred vision

Check your risk

There are a number of lifestyle risk factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Being overweight
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Unhealthy foods, such as high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt or low-fibre foods
  • Cigarette smoking

There are also a number of demographics that are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, some of these include:

  • People with pre-diabetes
  • People aged 55 and over
  • People aged 45 and over who are obese or overweight, have high blood pressure or have a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes
  • All people with cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, angina, stroke, or narrowed blood vessels
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 35 and over
  • People aged 35 and over who are Pacific Islanders, Maori, Asian (including the Indian subcontinent, or of Chinese origin) Middle Eastern, North African or Southern European

For a full list of demographics at risk visit the Better Health Channel.

You can find out if you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes by taking the test below – it will only take a few minutes.

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Prevention and management

Up to 60% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making healthy changes to your lifestyle:

  • Keeping within your healthy weight range (see here for tips on how)
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Regular physical activity - the recommended minimum is thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day
  • Managing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Not smoking

Currently there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but by making the changes listed above, those who have already been diagnosed can significantly manage and improve their condition in the following ways:

  • Reduce the risk of developing diabetes complications such as heart attack, stroke and kidney disease
  • Help to keep one’s blood glucose level in target
  • Reduce or delay the need for medicine or insulin
  • Help one to look and feel better

Further information: