Diabetes Awareness

Diabetes Awareness

Workers eating lunch smile at cameraMore than 240,000 New Zealanders have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and every day 50 more people are diagnosed with the disorder. Diabetes can be a complex condition to live with, but it can be managed and people who have been diagnosed with diabetes can live active lives. Healthy food and beverage options are increasingly popular at supermarkets in New Zealand, helping people with diabetes who need to choose food low in sugar, saturated fat and calories. Many diabetes-friendly products have recently been developed that are sugar free, or sweetened with natural alternatives such as stevia.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from problems in how insulin is produced, how insulin works, or both. People with diabetes may develop serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and premature death.

Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have high blood glucose or haemoglobin A1C levels, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, but not everyone with prediabetes will progress to diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program, a large prevention study of people at high risk for diabetes, showed that lifestyle intervention that resulted in weight loss and increased physical activity in this population can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and in some cases return blood glucose levels to within the normal range. Other international studies have shown similar results.

Type 1 diabetes was previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes. Although disease onset can occur at any age, the peak age for diagnosis is in the mid-teens. To survive, people with type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump. In adults, type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes was previously called non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes because the peak age of onset is usually later than type 1 diabetes. In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a disorder in which the cells primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue do not use insulin properly. The risk for developing type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. Some Asian ethnicities and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes and its complications.

Gestational diabetes is a form of glucose intolerance diagnosed during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. The risk factors for gestational diabetes are similar to those for type 2 diabetes. The occurrence of gestational diabetes itself is a risk factor for developing recurrent gestational diabetes with future pregnancies and subsequent development of type 2 diabetes. Also, the children of women who had gestational diabetes during pregnancies may be at risk of developing obesity and diabetes.

Other types of diabetes are caused by specific genetic conditions or from surgery, medications, infections, pancreatic disease, or other illnesses. Such types of diabetes account for 1% to 5% of all diagnosed cases.

November 11-17 is Diabetes Awareness Week 2014.

Visit www.diabetes.org.nz or phone 0800 342 238 for more information.

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