August 03, 2022

According to the Ministry of Health, more than 250,000 people in New Zealand have been diagnosed with diabetes, with most having Type 2 diabetes.

That means about five per cent of the population is affected by this condition, even without taking into account the number of undiagnosed people, which is thought to be roughly another 100,000.  

Diabetes is creating a huge cost for our health system and impacting the financial, emotional and physical health of those living with the condition. The statistics are scary and are one of the reasons why Te Atatu Toasted founderClare Robinson is so committed to providing a range of cereals lower in sugar and sodium, higher in protein and full of low release ingredients to keep you fuller for several hours after eating. The Healthy Blend Muesli is the lowest in sugar making it ideal for a Type 2 diabetic or prediabetic.

But the good news is that there are ways to lower your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. It’s especially important to be aware of this as we age – being over 45 is one of the risk factors. So let’s find out a bit more about this chronic disease and how you can avoid it.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system destroys the cells that make insulin, so people with Type 1 don’t produce any insulin. It 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

Type 2 diabetes is usually considered a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time without proper treatment and lifestyle changes. People with Type 2 diabetes can produce some insulin, but their body doesn’t respond as it should or they don’t make enough insulin.  

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and affects only about 10 per cent of all diabetics, so we are going to focus on Type 2, which for many people can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle.

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 terms of risk: 

 

  • Being overweight:Although not everyone with Type 2 diabetes is overweight, it is widely accepted that obesity is one of the most common causes, especially if you carry most of your weight around your waist.
  • A sedentary lifestyle: Consistent inactivity in both your job and personal life is the second most common cause of Type 2 diabetes, making it essential to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Exercise helps with mental wellbeing while also helping maintain or reduce body weight, and it also makes your muscles use more glucose (lowering glucose levels in the body).
  • Family history: Genetics also plays a part in determining common causes behind those who develop Type 2 diabetes. This is why family members such as grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters with existing diabetes are considered when making a diagnosis.
  • Ethnicity:People of Maori, Asian, Middle Eastern or Pacific Island descent are thought to be more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • Existing medical conditions: There are numerous medical conditions that may contribute in some way to developing diabetes. High blood pressure is an excellent example of an existing medical condition that leaves people pre-disposed to Type 2 diabetes, as is having previously had gestational diabetes.(Gestational diabetes is when a mother develops diabetes during pregnancy.)
  • Diet: A diet high in processed food, sugar and salt is thought to be a prominent determining factor in developing Type 2 diabetes. This is due to a whole host of factors, too many to go into here, but poor nutritional value and associated weight gain are good examples of the side effects of consistently making unhealthy food choices.
  • Age:Research shows the risk of Type 2 diabetes increases as we age, especially after 45 years of age. 
  • Lack of quality sleep: Working long hours or shift work affecting the normal circadian rhythms can make it difficult to maintain good eating and sleeping routines. Something as simple as not getting enough time in the direct sunlight, which can affect serotonin levels, can be a contributing factor to poor quality sleep.   
  • Stress: It is possible stress can also play a part in increasing the likelihood of developing diabetes as it often leads to poor food choices, a physically inactive lifestyle and other medical conditions that may prevent leading a healthy lifestyle. 

 

Common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes
According toDiabetes NZ, some of the typical symptoms of diabetes to look out for are: 

  • Feeling tired and lacking energy
  • Feeling thirsty a lot
  • Going to the toilet often
  • Frequent infections 
  • Getting infections that are hard to heal
  • Poor eyesight or blurred vision
  • Often feeling hungry

If you have some or any of these symptoms, schedule a visit to your doctor. Blood tests can be used to help diagnose whether you have diabetes.

 

Coming up:

  • How to avoid becoming pre-diabetic
  • Three ways to manage Type 2 diabetes
  • Make your healthy habits stick