National Diabetes Week

published in L’Angolo Della Terza Eta, La Fiamma 15/7/2013

National Diabetes Week is July 14 – 20. This is an annual event aimed at promoting awareness of diabetes throughout the Australian community. The Australian Diabetes Council, the peak consumer body for diabetes in Australia and one of teh oldest diabetes associations in the world, states that diabetes is a complex condition which can affect the entire body. Understanding diabetes is important even if you don’t have it. You most likely know someone who has diabetes, maybe a family member or a friend. This is because diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in Australia and globally.

Community awareness of the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabtes is still surprisingly limited. The Australian Diabetes Council argues that as a community we need to foster a culture of shared understanding of what diabetes is and be part of the solution that turns the diabetes epidemic around.

What is diabetes? Diabetes is a chronic condition. This means that it lasts for a long time, often for someone’s whole life.

For our bodies to work properly we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. A hormone called insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy.

In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body.

So when people with diabetes eat glucose, which is in foods such as breads, pasta, cereals, fruit and starchy vegetables, milk yoghurt and sweets, it can’t be cobnverted into energy. instead of being turned into energy the glucose stays in the blood. This is why blood glucose levels are higher in people with diabetes.

Glucose is carried around your body in your blood. Your blood glucose level is called glycaemia.

the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is that in Type 1 diabetes the body is not producing insulin, while in Type 2 diabtes the cells are not responding properly to the insulin, and/or there is not enough insulin being produced.

What is Type 2 diabetes? Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 85-90% of all people with diabetes. While it usually affects older adults, more and more younger people, even children, are getting Type 2 diabetes.

In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes more insulin but is not produced in the amount your body needs and it does not work effectively.

Type 2 diabetes results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although there is a strong genetic predisposition, the risk is greatly increased when associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and the classic “apple shape” body where extra weight is carried around the waist.

Type 2 diabetes can often initially be managed with healthy eating and regular physical activity. However, over time most people with Type 2 diabetes will also need tablets and many will also need insulin. It is important to note that this is just the natural progression of the disease, and taking tablets or insulin as soon as they are required can result in fewer complications in the long- term.

There is currently no cure for Type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes

In Type 2 diabetes, many people have no symptoms at all, while other signs are dismissed as part of “getting older”. By the time Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the complications of diabetes may already be present. Symptoms 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
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Leg cramps

In an article published in the journal “Diabetes care” (Volume 27, Number 10, October 2004) it was reported that the incidence rates of Type 2 diabetes in the Italian – born and Greek – born population in Australia was approximately two times higher than those seen in Australian – born men and women. In a comparative study conducted across eleven European centres, there was no evidence to suggest that Italians in Italy are a particularly high-risk group. This highlights the need for further research to identify other risk factors accounting for the unexplained excess of diabetes in Italian – born Australians.

If you are concerned that you might have diabetes it is important that you visit your local doctor as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms. More information about diabetes is available on the Australian Diabetes Council website

National Diabetes Week in Italian