Type 2 Diabetes - Are You At Risk?

July 12, 2018

280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That is one person every five minutes.

Too many Australians are being diagnosed with diabetes too late, with the delay in diagnosis putting many people at risk of major life-threatening health problems.

This week, 8-14th July, is National Diabetes Week, with a focus on early diagnosis, treatment, ongoing support and management to reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a form of sugar that is the primary source of energy for our bodies.

We do not notice it while we go about our daily lives but inside our bodies, our cells are talking to each other, all day every day. It is just a part of how our bodies keep functioning.

This communication between our body’s cells happens in all sorts of ways. Insulin - a hormone - is released from specialised cells in the pancreas to inform cells in other organs about blood sugar levels. Insulin helps glucose move from the blood into the cells.

In people with diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough – or any – insulin, or the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly, which means the glucose stays in the blood and makes their blood glucose levels high.

How widespread is diabetes?

Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, including those that have been formally diagnosed (1.2 million cases are known and registered) as well as those with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (estimated to be up to 500,000 people).

An estimated 2 million Australians have a condition known as pre-diabetes and are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in coming years.

Different types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a serious, autoimmune condition in which the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age and is not linked to lifestyle factors; it cannot be cured or prevented.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the usual effects of insulin or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin. It is unknown exactly what causes type 2 diabetes; however, it is associated with both genetic and modifiable lifestyle risk factors. Type 2 diabetes affects 85-90% of all people with diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs in about 5-10 per cent of pregnancies and usually disappears after birth. It significantly increases a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Prevention of type 2 diabetes

Evidence from Diabetes Australia shows type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in up to 58 per cent of cases by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and following a healthy eating plan.

People at risk of type 2 diabetes can delay and even prevent the condition by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Regular physical activity
  • Making healthy food choices
  • Managing blood pressure
  • Managing cholesterol levels
  • Not smoking.

Many people do not know they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Assess your risk using the Diabetes Australia risk calculator.

Ageing and Diabetes

Although both types of diabetes can occur at any age, the risk of type 2 diabetes increases as we get older. Sometimes the symptoms and signs of diabetes can be confused with those of the ageing process.

Some of the signs and symptoms in older people that may indicate diabetes are:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Blurry vision
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Slow wound healing
  • Confusion
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent urination

As always, should you have any concerns, please do speak to your health care professional or doctor.