Early Detection of Diabetes – National Diabetes Week
8th – 14th July 2018
Did you know that half a million Australians could have type 2 diabetes, but don’t know it yet?
Did you know that 600 people present to hospital emergency rooms each year feeling unwell, and discover that it’s due to undiagnosed type 1 diabetes?
This July, Diabetes Australia aims to reduce these figures and the impact they have on the healthcare system (not to mention the individual). National Diabetes Week is all about raising awareness around early warning signs and ongoing management of these conditions.
Insulin lets the glucose in
Every time you consume food which contains carbohydrates (basically all the yum stuff!), the body breaks it down into glucose and tries to put it away as a fuel source – namely in the muscles for exercise, the brain for thinking, and the liver for longer term storage.
If you imagine that all of these locations have a locked door, you could consider insulin to be the key. Once unlocked, insulin is able to move the glucose out of the blood and into the cells.
In type 1 diabetes, not enough keys are being produced, and glucose levels start to rise. This is an autoimmune condition, and is often, but not always, diagnosed in childhood.
In type 2 diabetes, the keys are ready to go, but it’s as though someone has changed the locks. This is an unhelpful adaption to an unhealthy lifestyle, and is more likely to be diagnosed in adulthood.
Hyperglycaemia: too much of a good thing
Glucose, preferably broken down from complex carbohydrates (although particularly delicious in desserts), is an important fuel source for day to day functioning. In a healthy individual, it can be rapidly broken down for use in moderate and high intensity exercise, provides power to the brain, and lives in the muscles and the liver for later use.
In the case of diabetes, glucose levels in the bloodstream creep up over time and start to damage the small blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. The retina of the eye, kidneys, heart and peripheral nerves of the hands and feet are particularly susceptible to this damage, which is highly preventable if detected and managed early.
Know the 4 Ts for Type 1 Diabetes
When it comes to diagnosing type 1 diabetes, there are four predominant early warning signs:
1. Thirst – are you overly thirsty and feel unable to quench that thirst?
2. Toilet – are you frequently urinating?
3. Tired – are your energy levels low?
4. Thinner – have you recently lost weight?
Undiagnosed type 1 diabetes can be potentially fatal due to the fluctuations of blood glucose in the body – if in doubt, contact your GP.
Calculate your risk for Type 2 Diabetes
The Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Asssesment Tool (found here: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/risk-calculator) is a fast way to know your risk.
You’ll notice that while some of the risk factors are non-modifiable (age, gender, race, family history); many of them can be changed (fruit and vegetable intake, waist circumference, physical activity levels).
What can be done?
Well prescribed exercise is an underutilised and highly beneficial tool in the management of both type 1 and 2 diabetes, and is especially powerful in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Be sure to read the second instalment of this Specialised Health article to find out what simple actions you can take to drastically reduce your risk.