According to Diabetes Australia, 280 Australians develop diabetes each dayi. We explain the causes of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and look at preventative measures you can take to lessen your risk.
Diabetes is Australia's fastest-growing chronic disease and the sixth leading cause of death nationallyi. It is an incurable and irreversible condition that can cause health deterioration and complications, and requires lifelong managementii,iii.
Types 1 and 2
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder where the body cannot control the levels of glucose in the blood because of the shortage or ineffective use of insuliniv. Insulin is a hormone that aids the body's conversion of glucose (in food) into energy that our cells can usev. There are two major types of diabetes that affect the Australian population: type 1 and 2ii,iii. Approximately 10 per cent of Australians with diabetes have type 1iii, whereas type 2 effects between 85 to 90 per centvi.
Type 1 diabetics cannot produce insulin, and need daily insulin injections, constant blood glucose level monitoring, and a strict diet to manage their conditionvii. The onset of type 1 diabetes, which is typically diagnosed at an early ageiii, is unpreventable, incurablevii, and unrelated to a person's lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetics can produce some insulin but not in the quantities that the body requiresviii. Although some people are predisposed to type 2 diabetes because of genetic and lifestyle factors, type 2 diabetics are not born with the diseasevi. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes also increases with age. It is estimated, however, that 60 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases can be preventedi. Type 2 diabetics can manage their condition with diet and exercise, but more severe cases may need tablets or even insulin injectionsvi.
Diabetes cases on the rise
There are more than a million Australians (over 4 per cent of the population) who are currently diagnosed with diabetesiii,ix. This number is significantly larger than a decade ago in 2004-05 when only 3.5 per cent of the total population was diagnosed with the conditionx. Among the young, type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in childreniii, and type 2 is on the rise among children and adolescents due to the increasing rate of youth obesity in Australiaiii. According to the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, an estimated 3 million Australians over the age of 25 are expected to have diabetes by 2025iii.
The increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the Australian population has been linked to a number of factors including the ageing population and poor diet. Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excessive weight carried around the waistvi.
Type 2 diabetes has commonly been called a 'lifestyle disease' because it is also associated with the increase in the prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles in Australiavi. In fact, it has been predicted by the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute that eliminating obesity from the population could lead to a 40 per cent reduction in the number of type 2 diabetes cases in Australiaiii.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable and, to a certain extent, avoidable. Here are some tips to help prevent an onset of type 2 diabetesxi:
- Maintain a healthy weight: a round, "apple" body shape with excess weight around the waist contributes to type 2 diabetes.
- Exercise regularly: exercise has many proven benefits including helping to maintain a healthy weight and improving blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Follow a healthy and balanced diet: eat fruit, vegetables and high-fibre foods daily and cut down on salt and fat when possible; reduce your consumption of takeaway and processed foods.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption: excessive alcohol consumption can result in weight gain and an increase in blood pressure.
- Quit smoking: the likelihood of developing diabetes is two times higher in smokers than non-smokers.
- Visit your doctor: get regular check-ups to test cholesterol and blood pressure levels. High cholesterol and blood pressure can indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes.
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