Be alert to diabetes risk

Learn more about the chronic disease this World Diabetes Day this Tuesday, 14 November. Picture: Rochelle Field. 372215_01

Keep diabetes in mind all year round and work to avoid it

South West residents have been reminded of the need to maintain healthy eating, drinking and lifestyle behaviours to avoid chronic diseases like diabetes.

South West Hospital and Health Service Diabetes clinical nurse consultant diabetes Katherine Snars said World Diabetes Day was observed every year on 14 November.

“But while World Diabetes Day is a good way to focus awareness, diabetes and chronic disease are issues South West residents should be aware off all year round,’’ she said.

Ms Snars said diabetes currently was the world’s fastest-growing chronic disease and was already the seventh leading cause of death in Australia.

“Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of diabetes. It can usually be managed by maintaining a healthy weight, with medication, when necessary,’’ she said.

“Type 1 diabetes is less common, generally about 10 per cent of all diabetes cases, and must be managed with regular doses of insulin.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are particularly at risk of developing diabetes and this genetic predisposition is compounded by a range of other factors such as generational disadvantage, poor nutrition, obesity, and lack of exercise.

“If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person it is three times more likely that you will have Type 2 diabetes than your non-Indigenous neighbour.

“The other thing about diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families is that it occurs at a younger age in Indigenous families and can be preventable.

“If not managed properly, diabetes can lead on to end-stage kidney failure, which would then require people going on renal dialysis for life, unless they can have a kidney transplant.’’

Ms Snars said diabetes was the name given to a group of different conditions in which the body cannot maintain healthy levels of a type of sugar called glucose in the blood.

“The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, manufactured in your pancreas – a gland behind your stomach,’’ she said.

“When your body cannot make enough insulin, or if the insulin is not working properly, it cannot break down glucose into energy.

Symptoms for Type 1 can be remembered by the 4Ts:

Toilet – are you going to the toilet a lot?

Thirsty – do you have an unquenchable thirst?

Tired – are you more tired than usual?

Thinner – have you recently lost a lot of weight?

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can include:

Frequent urination.

Increased thirst.

Always feeling hungry.

Feeling very tired.

Blurry vision.

Slow healing of cuts and wounds.

Numbness or pain in hands or feet.

But there are often no symptoms at all in the early stages.

Ms Snars said it made sense to do everything possible to reduce both the overall rate of diabetes in communities and assist those with diabetes to self-manage so that they did not develop complications.

“This is something that many people can do for themselves,’’ she said.

“Proper diet and exercise can help you avoid getting diabetes in the first place and can also help you manage diabetes if you do have it.

“If people with diabetes eat healthy food, have a healthy body weight, and are physically active they can be strong and healthy.

“If people with diabetes eat unhealthy food and are not physically active, their blood sugars will be high and they will be unhealthy.

“They will suffer complications like stroke, blindness, heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot problems and risk having amputations.’’

Some ways of managing diabetes if you have it, or to help you avoid getting it:

Limit your intake of foods such as sugary drinks, sweets, cordials and increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains.

Managing weight – If you are overweight losing weight is one of the best ways to improve your blood sugars and health and reduce your risk of complications. Maintaining good portion control and limiting high sugar and high fat foods is the best way to keep your weight in check.

Avoid saturated fats: Foods high in saturated fats include butter, coconut milk and cream, fatty meats, cream, cakes and biscuits and pastry’s like pies and sausage rolls.

Exercise helps to manage blood sugars and weight as well as general health.

Alcohol should be limited to no more than two standard drinks per day and everyone should have regular alcohol-free days

Attend regular check-ups, take your medications, and monitor your blood sugars as advised by your health care teams.

See a dietitian for individualised dietary advice for healthy weight and managing and preventing diabetes.