For 2000 years, diabetes has been a serious and feared disease. In fact, until the 1920s when scientists discovered that insulin could be used to treat the disease, the prognosis was dire. The 14th of November marks the 23rd International Diabetes Federation’s World Diabetes Day.
World Diabetes Day, which has been running since 1991, is a day that aims to bring together people in over 160 countries to advocate for the highlighting of the disease and to raise awareness of diabetes. This year, the theme is ‘Healthy Eating and Diabetes.’ Considering that it has been estimated that by 2035 there will be 592 million people worldwide living with diabetes, an increase in awareness and knowledge of how to prevent the disease is important. This is particularly true in Australia, as the Western Pacific region has the highest rate of diabetes in the world.
Healthy Living and Diabetes – What You Need to Know
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when glucose from food doesn’t get effectively converted to energy. For people who don’t produce insulin or who cannot use it effectively, the glucose stays in the blood, which eventually makes you sick.
There are three types of diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin. People with Type 1 Diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin every day, and this usually starts early in life as most people with Type 1 are diagnosed before they are 30. There is also Gestational Diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, when the body’s demand for insulin (two or three times higher than normal) is not being met by the body, and close monitoring and possibly injections of insulin are required. There is also Type 2 Diabetes, the most common type of the disease, which occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin for it to work effectively, or the insulin receptors in our cells are desensitised (also called insulin resistance). This is caused by both environmental and genetic factors, so you’re more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if someone in your family has it, but the likelihood of you getting it is higher if you also have high blood pressure, are insufficiently active, are obese or have a poor diet.
If you are experiencing frequent urination, excessive thirst, a lack of energy or any of these symptoms, get your GP to check you out.
The Good News
Did you know that up to 58% of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented? Yep, in most cases some lifestyle changes can prevent the development of the disease. In fact, Type 2 diabetes, in its early stages, is pretty easy to treat by increasing daily activity and improving diet. If you present any of the risk factors, why not make the lifestyle change now? Diabetes Australia recommends reducing the fatty and sugary foods in your diet and taking particular care to avoid saturated fats, as well as avoiding pre-packaged snack foods. You can also add foods like lean meats and fish into your diet and get your fats from avocado or from unsalted nuts. Ideally, everyone should be doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you find that difficult, try to integrate exercise into your day by getting off the bus a stop early to stroll through a nice park, taking up gardening, or enrolling in a fun dance class.
How to Celebrate World Diabetes Day in Australia
Diabetes Australia told us that the day can be celebrated in a number of ways. For their part, they are awarding diabetes researchers with grants to help find ways to reduce the impact of this disease, as well as advocating to leaders at the G20 Summit in Brisbane to act on diabetes. If you would like to do something too, there are also ways you can contribute. Diabetes Australia said “We’re encouraging people to host their own healthy breakfast on World Diabetes Day and also to take part in the Diabetes Australia Walk to Work campaign!” If you’d like to take part, click here.
Image: Federation Square lights up for WDD 2014. Image Credit
There are also a lot of local events taking place. There will be be a “lighting up” of world landmarks, which will glow blue to signify the World Diabetes Day logo. In Victoria, Melbourne’s iconic GPO building and the Yarra Building in Federation Square will glow blue at 8pm on the 13th of November. Click here for pictures of Sydney’s Opera House lit up blue. In South Australia, you can pack a healthy breakfast and join Diabetes SA in Victoria Square from 8am. Click here or here for more events in your area.