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The low-down on diabetes

Diabetes is in the news again – and it’s not good news. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes is now sitting at over 245,000 in New Zealand alone1, and it’s estimated a further 100,000 people are living with diabetes but haven’t yet had it diagnosed2.

The other numbers make for gloomy reading too. Today, people living with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke3. Not to mention that nine out of 10 diabetics have type 2 diabetes, a condition caused predominantly by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise and sleep4.

What this shows is that we all need to do what we can to keep fit and healthy.

What exactly is diabetes?

According to Diabetes New Zealand (diabetes.nz.org) diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas can no longer make a hormone called insulin, or when the body can’t make good use of the insulin it produces.

Insulin acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream and into the cells in our bodies to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells.

Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycaemia). Over the long-term, high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.

Eating and sleeping well can make a difference

Recently, some scientific studies have shown that simple weight loss and long-term changes to diet can really make a massive difference for both the prevention, and treatment, of diabetes4.

Other factors such as better sleep, regular exercise and good mental health can all contribute to reduced risk and better management of diabetes.

Blood glucose levels are affected by the amount and type of starchy and sweet food you eat or drink. We all like a treat now and then, but can you have too much of a good thing? Yes you can, and the facts show we’re putting ourselves at risk.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Eating well doesn't have to be boring. In fact even simple, small changes can help, such as:

  • Drinking plenty of water and cutting down on fruit juice and other sweet drinks
  • Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, and cutting down on the snacks (and fast food!) in between
  • Planning your meals and freezing batches if it’s easier
  • Choosing food low in sugar, saturated fat and calories or kilojoules.

If you’d like to learn more about diabetes and how you reduce your risk of developing it, check out the Diabetes New Zealand website at www.diabetes.org.nz

WIN an award-winning book!

In Eat Well, Live Well, Diabetes New Zealand has collected truly delicious recipes from well-known Kiwi cooks that are healthy easy to make and quick to prepare. For your chance to win a copy, click here.

 Read more from our June 2019 issue of Be Free

 

[1] https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes/about-diabetes/virtual-diabetes-register-vdr

[2] https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/diabetes

[3] https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/wellbeing/managing-risk/managing-diabetes

[4] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33102-1/fulltext#seccestitle10