NATIONAL DIABETES WEEK 2018
What you need to know about one of the most common health issues
A REPORT released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals the rising risk that diabetes poses, particularly to older Australians.
According to figures from the ABS, about one in six people aged older than 65 reports having diabetes – just more than 574,000 people. The incidence of the disease increases with age, with the highest prevalence reported in people aged 85 and older.
What is diabetes?
The AIHW defines diabetes as a chronic condition characterised by high levels of glucose in the blood.
It is caused by an inability to produce insulin (a hormone produced to control blood sugar), or an inability to use insulin effectively.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable, autoimmune disease that develops when the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells.
The exact cause remains a mystery, although it is believed to result from genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
This type of diabetes can develop at any age.
Insulin replacement is an essential treatment for type 1 diabetes and requires a careful balance of diet, exercise and insulin intake.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes insulin-resistant and/or the amount of insulin produced does not meet the body’s needs. While having certain genetic susceptibilities, type 2 diabetes is largely preventable as many of its risk factors relate to healthy lifestyle choices, which can be modified.
The risk factors include obesity, insufficient physical activity, unhealthy diet, tobacco smoking, high blood pressure and high blood lipids.
When first diagnosed, a type 2 diabetic’s blood glucose levels can often be maintained through lifestyle modification or medication, although insulin may eventually be required as the condition progresses.
In older patients, managing this type of diabetes with medication can pose challenges.
Sadly, this preventable illness was overwhelmingly the most common type of diabetes reported by people aged 65 and older, accounting for more than nine out of 10 cases.
Gestational diabetes is a less common condition marked by high blood sugar levels appearing during pregnancy that usually disappear following the birth.
Much like type 2 diabetes, it is associated with lifestyle factors and is treated with a combination of lifestyle modifications and medication.
The damage caused
Diabetes can lead to a multitude of health conditions, including heart attack and stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, nerve damage and delayed wound healing, which can result in lower limb amputation.
Evidence suggests that early and intensive management of blood sugar levels can delay the onset or slow the progression of these complications.
Diabetes was recorded as a diagnosis in more than 1 million hospitalisations in 2014-15, representing 10 per cent of all hospitalisations.
In 2014, diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death in Australia, claiming 15,700 lives and accounting for 10 per cent of all deaths.
It was the underlying cause for 4300 of these deaths and listed as an associated cause for the remaining 11,400.
Diabetes death rates increase with age, and for people aged 85 years and older the rate is three times as high as it is for those aged 75-84.
CHECK YOUR LEVELS: Diabetes can lead to a multitude of health conditions.