Monday, 9 July 2012

Help stem the diabetes epidemic

Ranked sixth in the leading causes of death in Australians1, diabetes is a serious health issue for a growing number of Australians1. Today, 1.7 million Australians have diabetes and up to half of type 2 diabetes cases remain undiagnosed2.

There is currently no cure for the disease and it is estimated that in the next 20 years around 3.3 million Australians will have type 2 diabetes1.

With up to 60% of cases of type 2 diabetes considered preventable,1 the good news is that we can all do something about working towards a more positive future. Understanding the disease and its risk factors are vital first steps.

So what is diabetes and who is at risk of developing the disease?

Simply put, diabetes is a disease where sufferers produce no insulin (type 1 diabetes) or insufficient levels of insulin (type 2 diabetes). Insulin is a hormone that is needed for the body to work effectively as it converts the glucose (sugar) from the food we eat into energy.

When someone with type 1 diabetes eats glucose it stays in their blood rather than being converted into energy. Without insulin the body burns its own fats instead. Unless treated with daily insulin injections, the affected person accumulates dangerous chemical substances in their blood, produced from the burning of fat, which can be fatal1.

While the cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known, the disease has a strong family link and sadly can’t be prevented.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, can usually be prevented, or its onset can at least be delayed. People with type 2 diabetes produce some insulin, but not enough, so it does not work effectively. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in older adults, however, growing numbers of younger people, including children, are now contracting the disease.

Family history and issues like high blood pressure and body shape may determine risk levels but lifestyle factors also play a significant part. In a society where more people are overweight or obese, are not physically active and have poor diets, we are seeing an unprecedented number of diabetes cases that never should have occurred.

If you’re living with the disease it’s important to take control; playing an active role in the self-management of the condition is this first step. A vital part of your management plan should include identifying yourself as someone living with diabetes. A MedicAlert medical ID is a great tool in this regard. It can alert those who come to assist you in an emergency to your condition and provides first responders with the immediate information they need to assist in ensuring appropriate medical assistance is administered.

8–14 July 2012 is Diabetes Awareness Week, a week dedicated to increasing awareness of diabetes in our community, how it can be prevented and effective ways to live with and manage the disease. There has never been a better time to educate and protect yourself so act now.

For more information on diabetes please visit:
For information on becoming a MedicAlert member please visit:

  • 1Diabetes Australia 2012, date accessed: 31 May 2012
  • 2AusDiab, The Australian Diabetes Obesity and Lifestyle Study. NSW Health, AusDiab.