Could you to identify three symptoms of diabetes? In yourself, or someone you love?
Chances are you probably can’t.
But also, chances are you’re probably not alone. New research has revealed that 97 per cent of us don’t know much about diabetes; we don’t know what the risk factors are, we don’t know how many types there are and most worryingly even if we were suffering we wouldn’t know the symptoms.
And that’s scary when you know that as many as 3.6 million Australians have diabetes or pre diabetes, and the percentages are similar in most “advanced” countries.
This week is National Diabetes Week in Australia. So it’s important we all know what diabetes is and how we can reduce our chances of getting it, or managing it if we have it.
So here we go. There are three types of diabetes out there – Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin (the body needs insulin to turn sugar into energy). Type 1 affects around 10 – 15 per cent of diabetics. We don’t know a lot about the cause of Type 1, but it’s thought to be related to an auto immune problem, where the body’s own immune system attacks itself. There’s no cure for Type 1 and sufferers need to inject themselves with insulin every day. For my cousin, that’s four times a day – at breakfast, lunch, dinner and just before bed.
Gestational diabetes occurs in around five to eight per cent of pregnancies and usually commences in the 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancies. Women are at a greater risk of gestational diabetes when they’re over the age of thirty, have a family history of Type 2 diabetes and/or are overweight. It’s usually managed with eating plans and exercise. Some women with gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 later.
Then there’s Type 2. And that’s probably the one we all need to make some noise about right now. That’s because diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in western societies and around 85 per cent of diabetics suffer from Type 2.
And while there is no cure, it can be totally preventable depending on lifestyle, or managed effectively using a variety of lifestyle adaptions and medication.
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include things like poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity. Unlike Type 1, the symptoms for Type 2 can be more general and include feeling run down or fatigued.
Indeed, research shows that improved diet and increased exercise are the best ways to reduce the development of Type 2 diabetes. In fact, it can reduce it by almost 71 per cent.
The other thing to note is that many people who have Type 2 diabetes don’t even know that they have it, either because they aren’t aware of the symptoms, or the risk factors, or of the importance of being tested. And that’s concerning because undiagnosed, diabetes can lead to serious health complications like strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease and blindness.
Type 2 diabetes is no respecter of age or ethnic background. According to Diabetes Australia symptoms of diabetes include:
• Being excessively thirsty
• Passing more urine
• Feeling tired and lethargic
• Always feeling hungry
• Having cuts that heal slowly
• Itching, skin infections
• Blurred vision
• Gradually putting on weight
• Mood swings
• Feeling dizzy
• Leg cramps
Anyone who’s experiencing those symptoms, should talk to an expert and seek professional advice.
Testing for diabetes is quick, and accurate.
Treatment is well understood and very often effective.
There’s no point burying your head in the sand – much better to start working on it now, if you have it, than find out later on, when symptoms become impossible to ignore, and the damage to your body may be deeply significant and irreversible.
And switching your diet so there are more Low GI foods in it can make a major difference to your chances of developing diabetes, or surviving it. Low GI foods are just as delicious as High GI foods, you just need to know which are which so you can choose wisely. Unfortunately product packaging is rarely helpful, and many foods we think are healthy and good for us actually aren’t.
(Muesli bars and boxes of cereal are the ones that drive me nuts. They’re often High GI, and packed full of sugar, even while making other health claims.)
So can you identify the differences between Low GI foods and others? Indeed, do you even know what I am talking about?
And now let me ask you that first question again: if I asked you to identify three symptoms of diabetes, could you do it?
I have mild diabetes, which is pretty well managed at the moment. It was a hell of a shock when I found out, and for a while I was in denial. Now I am very glad I found out when I did, and can work on staying healthy.
How about you?
Includes original material in part from mamamia.com, Medibank Private, and others as well as my own comments.