Facing up to the truth of diabetes in Australia
TWO hundred and eighty Australians develop diabetes every day - that's one every five minutes.
Those statistics are pretty frightening. Type 2 diabetes, the most common, is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, and 50% of all Australians with diabetes are aged 65 or more.
Major risk factors include age, being overweight, genetic predisposition and reduced activity levels.
But diabetes doesn't have to be scary, according to Toowoomba & Darling Downs Diabetic Group secretary Alma Moore. She's been living with diabetes for 48 years, since developing gestational diabetes while pregnant.
Put simply, diabetes is characterised by high blood glucose levels due to the body's inability to produce or respond to insulin. Unchecked, it can damage major organs such as the kidney, arteries, increase risk of stroke and heart attack, cause vision loss and nerve damage.
"If you have a family history of diabetes, you're a bit overweight, or getting older, and think you may have diabetes, face up to it," Mrs Moore said in the lead-up to National Diabetes Week, from July 10-16.
"Go and get yourself checked out and, if you have it, own your diabetes.
"You have to control it, and if you do that you can live a very happy, active life."
There are about 80 members of the Toowoomba support group, which meets monthly to discuss issues relevant to diabetes control, including podiatry and optometry. Members range in age from their 40s to the oldest member Daph Watson who, at 86, has lived with diabetes for 62 years.
"When you have diabetes, you've got it 24/7, but it doesn't have to limit your life or your activities," Mrs Moore said, as we chatted before she headed out for indoor bowls.
You do have to make "a few little life changes", including taking regular blood sugar checks, and eating certain things in moderation. But these days diet is not as restrictive and treatment is not what it used to be.
Mrs Moore wears an insulin pump on her waist, and the blood sugar readings she takes are blue-toothed to the pump for regulation.
"When I was first diagnosed, you just waited until the symptoms arrived and then you treated those. Now it's preventative, so you have regular check-ups and it means they are on top of things straight away."
Unfortunately, sometimes symptoms of diabetes such as excessive urination, thirst or feeling tired and lethargic are not as clear, or can be misinterpreted in older people, so it is important to have regular check-ups.
This month's Toowoomba support meeting, at 1.30pm on July 13 at the Masonic Hall, Neil St, features diabetes educator Kate Mundy. Call Mrs Moore on 46306215 to find out more, or contact Diabetes Queensland on 1300 136 588 or go to www.diabetesqld.org.au.