According to the Ministry of Health, currently there are over 250,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in NZ, with the clear majority of those being type 2 diabetes. That’s around 5% of the population, and of course, this doesn’t take into account the number of undiagnosed which is thought to be roughly another 100,000 people.
The Ministry also states the current cost of diabetes to the country is approximately 2.1 billion dollars. With recent predictions of a 70-90% increase over the next 20 years, and bearing in mind that this is only the quantifiable financial cost (not taking into consideration the emotional toll or loss of productivity in the workplace), these figures paint an alarming picture. Therefore, it is very clear, action must be taken if we wish to avoid the predicted impacts of type 2 diabetes in New Zealand.
One of the best ways to create lasting change is by building knowledge. So read on to learn more about type 2 diabetes, its symptoms, causes and what you can do to help manage this disease. Please note; all of the information provided in this article is intended as a guide only; always consult medical professionals for assistance with diabetes and other medical concerns or conditions.
What Does Being Type 2 Diabetic Mean?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in New Zealand and around the world. It is a disease that is identified by high blood glucose (sometimes called blood sugar) levels that are consistently elevated.
Why are the blood sugar levels so high? When you have Type 2 diabetes, your body does not respond well to insulin—at first, needing to produce more than usual for it to perform its job of allowing glucose to enter the cells where it is stored for energy—and later facing the dilemma of never being able to produce enough. This is called insulin resistance.
The pancreas releases insulin to regulate how much glucose enters the cells, but for those with Type 2 diabetes, due to their insulin resistance, producing and regulating the production of insulin is an issue. As a result, the body doesn’t make enough insulin and not enough glucose gets drawn out of the blood and into the cells, meaning high levels of sugars build up in the blood.
Common Symptoms Of Type 2 Diabetes
While symptoms vary according to the individual, and in fact, sometimes there can be no symptoms at all, early diagnosis of diabetes is always beneficial. According to Diabetes NZ, some of the typical symptoms of diabetes to look out for are:
If you have some or any of these symptoms it is best to schedule a visit to your doctor. As part of the diagnosis of diabetes, you will likely be required to get blood tests done. The blood tests are a very simple procedure, and the results will be sent directly to your doctor.
What Is The Difference Between Type 2 Diabetes And Type 1?
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. The main difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that people with type 1 diabetes don’t produce any insulin. Whereas people with type 2 diabetes can produce some insulin, but their body doesn’t respond as it should and/or they don’t make enough insulin.
For further clarification, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system destroys the cells that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops quite quickly, and the cause is largely unknown. Because the body is unable to make any insulin (which regulates glucose levels in the blood) type 1 diabetes results in uncontrollable levels of blood sugar which can lead to very serious consequences. Being diagnosed with and managing type 1 diabetes is very different to type 2.
Type 2 diabetes is usually considered a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time without proper treatment and/or lifestyle changes. For this reason, many people may not realise they have type 2 diabetes for some time. If not corrected, the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas will continue to get damaged or even die, and your body is then able to make even less insulin to balance your blood glucose. For the purposes of this article, we are only discussing type 2 diabetes and its associated causes and characteristics.
Risk Factors For Type 2 Diabetes
What causes type 2 diabetes? The likely causes of developing type 2 diabetes can be summarised into two broad categories; genetics and lifestyle choices. Let’s take a look at what this means in real-life terms:
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is when a mother develops diabetes during pregnancy. The good news is that gestational diabetes usually resolves itself after giving birth. The bad news is it can cause complications during the pregnancy, lead to a greater chance of developing postnatal depression after the birth and create a greater predisposition to developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
The Difference Between Diabetes And Prediabetes
Prediabetes is a kind of warning signal prior to developing diabetes, it is usually picked up from blood tests that show elevated blood sugar levels. To be classified as prediabetes, the blood sugar levels are almost there but not quite high enough to be considered diabetic. Research for those with prediabetes shows that type 2 diabetes is likely to develop within ten years without intervention.
Pre-Diabetic? What You Can Do To Avoid Becoming Diabetic
The important thing to remember with prediabetes is that progressing to type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. For many people, the right lifestyle changes such as weight loss, increased exercise and healthier eating can aid in bringing blood sugar levels back to a more normal range.
In daily life, this could mean making healthier and more informed food choices, getting regular exercise, focusing on sleeping well, and making time for relaxing and enjoying life. Now, this is obviously easy to say, and we all have the best of intentions, but putting all of these intentions into regular practice can be a bit more challenging.
A good way to go about making changes to your lifestyle is to take a step back taking in the big picture, as it were. Are there positive changes that you can easily make? Maybe going for a regular walk in the evening with a friend. Taking the time to read food labels or doing a course on understanding the ins and outs of better nutrition to help with food purchase decision-making.
Having made a good start, now look for changes that could be considered a work-in-progress. This could be as simple as learning to cook healthier food. A quick online search (try Diabetes NZ) and you can find any number of recipes designed specifically for people with diabetes – why not add these to your food routine, slowly building more and more of them in. Or you could seek out pre-made foods that are diabetic friendly such as cereals and other whole food type meals.
Finally, you will need to single out some of the big stuff that may require some pretty important life decisions. This could mean changing jobs to avoid shift work or long hours, sedentary days or nights, or looking at ways to heal or improve existing medical conditions.
3 Ways To Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Having been diagnosed with diabetes, the ongoing goal is to better control blood glucose levels and improve the body’s use of insulin. What you can do to achieve this is by focussing on all aspects of your health and wellbeing, but primarily this will include:
Why is losing weight so important for people with diabetes? Obesity is a widely accepted major risk factor for developing insulin resistance, and we have already learned that insulin resistance is a significant factor in developing type 2 diabetes.
Everybody has different ideal healthy weights based on height, body mass and other factors. However, the Ministry of Health makes the following recommendations regarding adults losing weight for diabetes.
“Aim for 5-10% loss of total body weight if the patient is overweight (BMI > 30 kg/m2 OR BMI > 25 kg/m2 with waist circumference > 88 cm in women or > 102 cm in men) by developing an individualised weight management plan”
Managing your weight is an integral part of managing your diabetes however, tackling weight management issues usually requires a very individual approach best handled by professionals such as dietitians, nutritionists and doctors.
Watch your portion sizes, here at Te Atatu Toasted, we make it easy, you can request a portion cup when you order your cereal online.
Eating healthily offers two main advantages, it aids in losing weight and helps maintain general health and wellbeing. For these reasons and others food is vital in managing diabetes, but it pays to keep in mind that it is not the complete answer – think of more as an important piece of the puzzle!
The Ministry of Health recommends a diabetic’s diet should contain regular meals with a focus on “a moderate amount of nutrient-dense and low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates” spread throughout the day, a reduced sugar intake, reduced saturated and trans fats and at least 30 g of dietary fibre per day.
Different dietary strategies mentioned by the Ministry of Health are; very low-energy diets (VLED) with meal replacements, the Mediterranean Diet, the dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH) diet, intermittent fasting, the Low GI Diet, vegetarian diets, very-low-carbohydrate (Keto) diets and commercial weight loss programmes. It is important to note; that their website also states there is no conclusive evidence that one dietary strategy might be more effective than another and that an individual’s approach to losing weight and eating healthier will depend on a number of factors.
For the purposes of this post and to put it in more generalised food terms, a healthy diet for people with diabetes should consist of mainly wholefoods. Examples might include whole grains, seeds and nuts, fruit, vegetables and protein. See here for more information on healthy food choices for diabetics.
Our Top 8 Healthy Food Tips
Here are our top 8 healthy food tips for type 2 diabetes (Please keep in mind any dietary changes or advice should be discussed with your doctor, nutritionist or registered dietitian).
Adapting to adding more exercise into your life can be a challenge for many reasons; maybe it’s time constraints, maybe it’s work or family responsibilities or just a lack of energy. Whatever the reason, it is really important to make the effort to increase exercise when seeking to manage your diabetes.
Current recommendations for physical activity by the Ministry of Health for those with diabetes include:
Bear in mind these are generalised recommendations and do not take into account any existing medical conditions or capabilities. For more information on managing type 2 diabetes, see the Ministry of Health’s Type 2 Diabetes Management Guidance here.
9 Ways To Cope With Diabetes Lifestyle Changes
Embarking on a complete overhaul of your lifestyle is pretty overwhelming. Changes and new habits can take a while to adjust to, making them easy to unravel when under pressure or when things go awry. Here are a few practical tips on making your new healthy habits for diabetes management stick.
While some people with type 2 diabetes are able to control their diabetes through careful management and lifestyle improvements, it may be necessary to include medication and insulin in the treatment plan. See your doctor if you believe you might have diabetes symptoms, or need help managing your diabetes and always seek medical advice before attempting any significant dietary or exercise changes.