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

5 July 2019

Thursday Island Primary Health Care Centre staff are busy spreading the word about diabetes prevention to mark the upcoming National Diabetes Week from 14–20 July.

Thursday Island Health Programs Manager Terry Savage said this year’s Diabetes Week theme – It’s about time you took the time – was to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of diabetes to increase earlier detection and promote action.

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

But for many the diagnosis was being made too late, thereby putting them at risk of life-threatening or serious health issues.

“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,’’ Mr Savage 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, or 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.

“Every day, about 300 Australians are diagnosed with diabetes. For many, the diagnosis is late, which puts them at risk of life-threatening or serious health issues.

“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.’’

Symptoms for Type 1 can be remembered by the 4Ts:

  • Toilet – are you going to the toilet a lot?
  • Thirsty – do you have an unquenchable thirst?
  • Tired – are you more tired than usual?
  • Thinner – have you recently lost a lot of weight?

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst\
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Feeling very tired
  • Blurry vision
  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds
  • Numbness or pain in hands or feet
  • But there are often no symptoms at all in the early stages.

Mr Savage said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were particularly at risk of developing diabetes and this genetic predisposition was 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,’’ he said.

“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 and see your doctor or primary health care centre if you have any concerns or symptoms.’’

Mr Savage said more than 1000 people in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area had been diagnosed with diabetes – with most cases being Type 2.

“But we’re concerned there’s a high number of people here who have already developed the condition but haven’t been diagnosed yet and they’re often the people most at risk of getting complications because it is not being managed properly.

“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 junk foods such as sugary drinks, sweets, cordials and increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains.
  • 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 dietary advice for healthy weight and managing and preventing
    diabetes.
  • See a Diabetes Nurse Educator for support and education to assist and empower you in daily self-management and to help answer questions including the impact of high blood glucose levels
    on your health.

PHOTO CAPTIONS: The Thursday Island Quality Lifestyle Program’s Diabetes Team: Back Row – from left – Gary Del Paul
(podiatrist), Shirley Kusu (Diabetes Nurse Educator), Kiah Peterie (Dietitian) and Thomas Loban (Health Promotion Officer). Front row – from left – Marissa Arnot (Senior Dietitian), Debra Clare (Diabetes Nurse Educator) and June Bann (Advanced Health Worker – Diabetes).

Last updated: 24 July 2019