Diabetes Australia issued a wake up call on July 14th 2019 about the diabetes epidemic which is overwhelming Australia’s hospitals after a new study found that people with diabetes accounted for around one-third of all hospitalisations.
A recent study at Austin Health, a major tertiary health service in Melbourne’s north-east, found that 34% of patients had diabetes. Surprisingly, 5% of these people had silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes that was only detected after they were admitted to hospital.
What is Diabetes
Diabetes is the name given to a group of different conditions in which the body cannot maintain healthy levels of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. When a food containing carbohydrate is eaten, your body digests the carbohydrate into sugar (called glucose), which can then be used as energy by the cells in your body.
A hormone called insulin is needed for transferring glucose from the bloodstream to enter the body cells and be converted to energy. In people with diabetes, blood glucose levels are often higher than normal because either the body does not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) or cannot use insulin properly (type 2 diabetes).
High levels of glucose in the bloodstream can lead to short term complications such as:
- passing large amounts of urine
- being extremely thirsty and drinking lots of fluids
- being tired
- having blurred vision
- having frequent skin infections and being slow to heal
Blood glucose levels are normally between about 4.0 and 8.0 mmol/L. People with diabetes should aim for blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible, but individual targets should always be discussed with your diabetes health care professional.
Controlling diabetes is important to prevent serious long term complications such as:
- heart and circulation problems
- kidney disease
- eye problems, which can lead to blindness
- nerve damage to the lower limbs and other parts of the body
Types of Diabetes
There are three types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes affects less than 1% of all Australians. It can appear at any age, but most commonly in childhood and early adult life. People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce enough insulin, and therefore they must inject themselves with insulin several times a day.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 7.1 % of all Australians over the age of 25 years. This type of diabetes most often occurs in people over 40 years of age who are overweight and/or have a family history of type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to use insulin properly (they are insulin resistant) and the pancreas may not make enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes may be treated by diet, exercise and/or tablets. Insulin injections may be required.
Gestational diabetes occurs in around 5% of all pregnant women in Australia, usually occurring between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. The hormonal changes of pregnancy combined with a predisposition for poor insulin production or utilisation, results in increased blood glucose levels in the mother and the baby. For most women with gestational diabetes, the diabetes will disappear after the baby is born. However, 30-50% of women who have gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
For people using insulin, regular physical activity and a healthy diet that is well matched to insulin medication is key to well-controlled blood glucose levels. They also need to consider the timing, amount and type of carbohydrate foods they eat, as well as the timing, amount and type of insulin they take. Regular blood glucose testing will help you manage your diabetes. All people with diabetes should avoid smoking.
Healthy eating tips for people with Diabetes
A healthy diet used in the treatment of diabetes is similar to the diet recommended for all Australians. To help manage your diabetes, Diabetes Australia recommend that you:
- Eat regular meals and healthy snacks spread over the day
- Base meals on high fibre carbohydrate foods such as wholegrain breads and cereals, beans, lentils, vegetables and fruits
- Watch the amount of fat you eat and limit the amount of saturated fat by choosing lean meats and low fat dairy foods. Try to avoid fried takeaway foods, pastries and biscuits
- Keep your weight within the healthy weight range by matching the amount of food you eat with the amount you burn up each day (see weight management fact sheet)
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All the best,