Diabetes Week – Dispelling the myths
Diabetes is Australia’s fastest growing chronic disease, and arguably one of the biggest challenges our healthcare system is facing. With over 280 Australians developing a form of the condition each day, and approximately 1.7 million Australians living with the condition, it’s a topic quickly gaining attention.
Diabetes Week aims to promote awareness of the condition, the effect it has on peoples’ day to day lives, and the steps we can take to improve both prevention and treatment of the condition.
We’ll take a look at some common myths associated with diabetes, clarifying what we currently know about the condition and what people can do to reduce their risk of developing diabetes.
Myth: All types of diabetes are the same
The Facts: There are three main types of diabetes; each a serious and complex condition.
Type 1 is an autoimmune condition with no known cause. The immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. As a result, ongoing blood glucose monitoring and regular insulin injections, or an insulin pump, are required.
Type 2 is a progressive condition, where the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, or gradually reduces insulin production. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be affected by family history, ethnicity and lifestyle.
Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women, as blood glucose levels rise above normal levels. It generally goes away once the baby is born, although it can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Myth: Diabetes is preventable
The Facts: While research is progressing each year, the causes of diabetes are still largely unknown. One of the biggest risk factors is genetic and family history.
There is currently no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and it is not currently linked to any lifestyle risk factors.
Evidence does show that certain steps can help reduce the risk of developing gestational and type 2 diabetes, including improved physical exercise and diet.
Myth: Only people who are overweight will develop diabetes
The Facts: While obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes, there is no direct causality. People at a healthy weight can also develop diabetes. Other risk factors include family history, age, ethnicity and high blood pressure.
Type 1 diabetes is not preventable, and it is not associated with weight, diet or exercise.
Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat sugar
The Facts: While diabetes does affect blood glucose levels, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, alongside exercise, people with diabetes can enjoy sweets and desserts. People with diabetes should consult a healthcare provider for expertise in developing a healthy nutritional plan, and advice on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst living with diabetes.
Although diabetes is a serious condition, with careful management and appropriate treatment, it doesn’t have to limit a person’s enjoyment of everyday life. People with diabetes work, travel, learn and raise a family just like anyone else.
Connected health solutions can help people with diabetes manage their condition at home, thereby improving health outcomes and avoiding unnecessary hospital visits. For advice and information on the risks and management of diabetes, you should contact your GP or Diabetes Australia.