Deadly but preventable type 2 diabetes on the rise in Australia

Diabetes is a chronic condition that is becoming increasingly common in Australia. While type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood, a lifelong auto-immune disease believed to be caused by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors, type 2 diabetes comes later in life and is largely preventable. Unfortunately, too many of us are overweight, inactive, with a poor diet and bad habits, increasing the risk of diabetes. If you think diabetes is easily fixed with insulin, you are wrong, and perhaps underestimating the dangers. At its worst, poorly managed diabetes can cause heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and lower limb amputation.

An estimated 1.2 million Australians, or 5.1 per cent of the population, had diabetes in 2014-15, the majority type 2. But it is thought that for every four adults who were diagnosed, one would be living without knowing their status. Diabetes is more common in men than women, and prevalence increases with age, to about 16 per cent for those aged 65-74. It is also often associated with other conditions. In 2013, diabetes contributed to 10 per cent of all deaths in Australia, most cases listing diabetes as an associated cause (coronary heart disease was the underlying cause in 23 per cent of those deaths and stroke in 6 per cent). Regrettably, indigenous Australians are 3.5 times more likely than other Australians to have diabetes, and four times more likely to be hospitalised or die from the condition.

Australians with type 2 diabetes have access to various resources but, according to one expert, need more support to manage their condition. Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia in August, Jane Speight from Deakin University and Diabetes Victoria called for a “paradigm shift” to improve self-management, while researchers continue searching for better treatments and interventions. Speight cited a study showing one in five diabetics never, or infrequently, ate healthily, and two in three did not engage in physical activity, but there was widespread distress over future health outcomes. “This suggests that, far from being apathetic or unmotivated to manage their diabetes, many people overestimate their risk of long-term complications and feel burdened or unsupported trying to manage a complex and unrelenting condition,” she wrote.

Risk factors and issues surrounding access to medical care mean that diabetics in remote areas, particularly indigenous communities, are far more likely to require an amputation. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has found huge variation in amputation rates, ranging from eight for every 100,000 people in North Sydney and Hornsby in NSW to 91 in outback Northern Territory and 73 in outback Queensland. A Queensland University of Technology study estimates that funding better care of diabetic foot ulcers could save $2.7 billion over five years and prevent thousands of hospitalisations. “Not only do patients receiving the best care have faster ulcer healing, fewer recurrent ulcers, hospitalisations and amputations, but they also have a better quality of life and we still save thousands of dollars per patient,” says health economist Rosana Norman.

Common environmental synthetic chemicals may be exacerbating the obesity problem. There is mounting evidence that environmental pollutants such as plasticisers, pesticides and coolants are contributing to metabolic disorders by disrupting the production and regulation of hormones in the body. A Swedish study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, suggests cutting exposure to these chemicals by just 25 per cent could help prevent more than 150,000 cases of diabetes each year in Europe. “Our findings also speak to the need for a strong regulatory framework that proactively identifies chemical hazards before they are widely used, and the use of safer alternatives,” it says.

By 2040, the International Diabetes Federation estimates one in 10 adults around the world, about 642 million people, will have diabetes.

Melbourne’s Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, in collaboration with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, is set to examine the number of new type 2 diabetes diagnoses around the world. It will seek to better identify trends, for example the apparent slowing in rates in the US and feared outbreaks in southeast Asia.

“While we have consistently been hearing about escalating rates of diabetes in Australia, for example, this is based on prevalence and it could be that the incidence actually demonstrates a slowing in the number of diagnosed new cases,” says the institute’s head of population health, Jonathan Shaw.

Learn how to treat someone if they have a diabetic issue in one of our first aid courses in Canberra. I cant believe with all of the information out their on how positive physical activity, sleep and eating right can help save you from this disease that we are still seeing the rise in type 2 diabetes. Not only should you book in to a first aid course in Canberra but get out and about in this great city, start eating healthy and make sure you are getting 8 hours of sleep a night. It will save your life.

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