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Keep diabetes in mind all year round and work to avoid it

20 July 2018

Thursday Island Primary Health Care Centre staff were busy spreading the word about diabetes during the recent Diabetes Week from 8–14 July.

But Thursday Island Health Programs Manager Terry Savage said while a lot of information had been provided to people at various activities held during the week, diabetes was an issue that Torres Strait residents should be aware off all year round.

“Diabetes is the name given to a group of different conditions in which the body cannot maintain healthy levels of a type of sugar called glucose in the blood,’’ he said.

“The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, manufactured in your pancreas – a gland behind your stomach.

“When your body cannot make enough insulin, of if the insulin is not working properly, it cannot break down glucose into energy.

“Glucose then builds up into high blood glucose levels which can then cause diabetes.’’

Mr Savage said Thursday Island had the largest concentration of people with diabetes in the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service region.

“Thursday Island is home to more than 400 people with diabetes, which is 15 per cent of the total number of diabetics in our health service,’’ he said.

“Across the health service as a whole, we currently have more than 2600 active diabetes clients in our system. This equates to around 10 per cent of the entire population in our health service.

“Complications from diabetes also account for the largest single proportion – about 25 per cent – of all potentially preventable hospitalisations within the health service.’’

“In the Torres Strait, we need to find ways to reduce both the overall rate of diabetes in our communities and the poor health people experience because of the complications of diabetes.

“This is something that many people can do for themselves.

“Proper diet and exercise can help you avoid getting diabetes in the first place and can also help you manage diabetes if you do have it.

“If people with diabetes eat healthy kai kai, have a healthy body weight, and are physically active they can be strong and healthy.

“If people with diabetes eat unhealthy kai kai and are not physically active, their blood sugars will be high and they will be unhealthy.

“They will suffer complications like stroke; blindness, heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot problems and risk having amputations.’’

Some ways of managing diabetes if you have it, or to help you avoid getting it:

  • Limit your intake of bad carbohydrates such as sugary drinks, sweets and cordials, white rice and pasta and increase your intake of good carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, brown rice and porridge.
  • Managing weight – If you are overweight losing weight is one of the best ways to improve your blood sugars and health and reduce your risk of complications. Maintaining good portion control and limiting junk foods is the best way to keep your weight in check.
  • Avoid saturated and trans fats: Foods high in saturated fats include butter, coconut milk and cream, fatty meats, cream, cakes and biscuits and pastry’s like pies and sausage rolls.
  • Exercise helps to manage blood sugars and weight as well as general health.
  • Alcohol should be limited to no more than 2 standard drinks per day and everyone should have regular alcohol-free days
  • Attend regular check-ups, take your medications and monitor your blood sugars as advised by your health care teams.
  • See a dietitian for individualised advice about how much carbohydrate you should be eating.

Mr Savage said diabetes currently was the world’s fastest-growing chronic disease and was already the sixth leading cause of death in Australia.

“Every day, about 62 Queenslanders are diagnosed with the condition, including two people with Type 1 diabetes and 60 people with Type 2 diabetes,’’ she said.

“Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of diabetes. It can usually be managed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with medication when necessary. Type 1 diabetes is less common and must be managed with regular doses of insulin.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are particularly at risk of developing diabetes and this genetic predisposition is compounded by a range of other factors such as poor nutrition, obesity and lack of exercise.

“The estimated number of Indigenous adults with Type 2 diabetes is up to four times higher than that of Australians of European descent. If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person it is almost four times more likely that you will have diabetes than will your non-Indigenous neighbour.

“The other thing about diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families is that it occurs at a younger age in Indigenous families.

“It makes sense, therefore, for us to do everything possible to reduce the rate of diabetes in our communities, as well as to assist those with diabetes to self manage so that they do not develop complications.

“That’s why everyone should be aware of diabetes all year round.’’


PHOTO CAPTION: Thursday Island dietitian Kiah Peterie shows how to prepare a healthy stir-fry for families during a cooking information session at the Community Wellness Centre.

Last updated: 1 August 2018