Diabetes currently affects more than 200,000 people in New Zealand and experts fear that there are another 100,000 people who have Diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed yet. As with many conditions, the earlier that it is diagnosed, the better it is controlled, and the long-term outcomes are more positive. Your doctor will often screen for Diabetes with a blood test when he/she tests you for heart disease. Ask your doctor to test you from 45 years for men and 55 years for women, or ten years before that if you are Māori, Pacific or Indian subcontinent descent, have cardiovascular risk factors or family history.
Not everyone has symptoms to let you know that you may be developing Diabetes, but certainly see your doctor if you experience:
- Feeling tired and lacking energy
- Feeling thirsty
- Going to the toilet often
- Getting infections frequently
- Getting infections which are hard to heal
- Poor eyesight or blurred vision
- Often feeling hungry
For a quick guide to your risk of developing Diabetes, complete the online “know your risk” quiz.
What is Diabetes?
Our bodies need glucose for energy. An organ called the pancreas produces the hormone insulin which acts like a metabolic traffic cop, allowing glucose into cells where it's burnt as energy. Too much food means a traffic jam of glucose in the blood, and combined with insufficient exercise, the effect of insulin is overpowered. Instead of being a vital food source glucose becomes a threat. Persistent high glucose damages the walls of blood vessels and increases the risk of blood clots, leading to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and blindness.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes. Our lifestyles have a great deal to do with it, particularly our eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. Obviously, prevention is better than cure.
What can I do to prevent Diabetes?
Research has shown that you can significantly lower your risk of Diabetes by losing 5-7% of your starting weight, eating healthy foods in sensible portion sizes and increasing activity levels to at least 30 minutes five times a week. Exercise can make your insulin work better and lower blood glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. Here are some great tips to get active:
- Put your shoes, socks, shorts and shirt at the end of the bed.
- Find a friend to walk with you
- Motivate your activity plan with a pedometer. To lose a few kilos, slowly work up to 15,000 steps a day.
- Once you've got into the daily walk habit, start interval training. Use a familiar tree or hill as a starting line, and then increase your pace for a minute or two before dropping back to your usual speed. Increase the interval time every other day so you're adding speed-up sections to your walk.
It is ideal to follow a low Glycaemic Index (GI) diet, that is foods that are digested slowly, keep you feeling fuller for longer and keep your blood glucose levels even. Foods include brown rice, buckwheat, whole grain bread, lentils, broccoli, oats and peanuts. Swap sugary drinks for water. Avoid processed food as much as possible, rather eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.