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Diabetes is perhaps the leading health concern today – it is the fastest growing chronic condition, with approximately 280 Australians diagnosed with the disease every day – and while there’s currently no cure, you can manage it with simple lifestyle changes. Approximately 2 million people are living with pre-diabetes, which places them at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes; up to 58% of type 2 cases can be prevented. Because diabetes can be prevented, you or someone you love can avoid developing diabetes, which irreversibly affects every major body system.

Just what is diabetes? There are several kinds, and you’ve probably heard of them at one stage or another.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the pancreas stops making insulin, the hormone critical for converting sugar into energy. The body uses its fat reserves, and this results in a build up of a dangerous chemical – the condition can be fatal. It is most common in people under 30, and insulin (sometimes administered via a pump) injections are necessary several times a day. It is thought to be genetic and lifestyle can help manage it.

Type 2 diabetes is what’s known as ‘lifestyle’ diabetes, because it’s caused by factors including high blood pressure, obesity, poor diet and a lack of exercise. The pancreas produces a little insulin, but not enough and what is produced is ineffective. When lifestyle changes begin to fail in managing diabetes, patients can require medication and then, insulin.

Gestational diabetes is developed during pregnancy, and can predispose babies to diabetes later in life, as well as their mothers. Insulin requirements increase during pregnancy and if the mother cannot produce enough, gestational diabetes is the result. If left untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to babies being born at higher weights, miscarriage and stillbirth.

National Diabetes Week this year is from July 13 to 19, and aims to raise awareness of diabetes, as well as inform and empower patients living with the disease. Information will be available on preventing diabetes through lifestyle changes, risk factors, and living with the disease. Diabetes Australia has more details – contact them on 1300 136 588.

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