If you knew you could do something now to help stop you from going blind, would you do it?
What you can do to lower your risk of eye disease when you are diabetic or pre diabetic.
Around one and a half million people in Australia are living with diabetes and a further one hundred and twenty thousand are diagnosed as diabetic each year. There are also four hundred thousand people at risk of developing diabetes each year.1
A large percentage of these have type 2 diabetes which is preventable.
Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes and over 60% of people with type 2 diabetes will develop diabetic eye disease within 20 years of diagnosis.2
Around one third of people with diabetes will develop some kind of diabetic eye disease.2
Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Australia.
In 2016 at least 165 000 people with diabetes had diabetic retinopathy which causes damage to the macular of the eye.3
Those number would be much higher today because in 2016 there were approximately one million people living with diabetes and in 2023 there are approximately one and a half million!
Macular degeneration affects about one in seven people over 50 years of age, and can occur as an overgrowth of blood vessels or as a loss of tissue.4
Around one in 15 people with diabetes develop macular odema which is an accumulation of fluid in the macular. Macular odema is the leading cause of vision loss in people with diabetes. 2
Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve. The exact link between diabetes and glaucoma is not obvious but rates of glaucoma are 12 times higher in people with diabetes than in the general population.3
Cataracts are caused by a clouding of the lens in the eye and rates of cataracts are 16 times higher in people with diabetes.3
Now the Up Side
There were a lot of facts in the first part of this blog and I am not going to apologise for them.
It is important that you know the numbers and that they make you sit up and take notice because most people who have diabetes, 90%, have Type 2 diabetes which is preventable and manageable.
Diabetes and sugar
If you don’t already know there are many other chronic conditions related to diabetes which can also cause significant health problems.
As well as vision complications, other complications of diabetes are: heart disease and stroke, reduced kidney function and possibly kidney failure, blood vessel disease affecting the limbs that may lead to limb amputation, nerve damage that typically involves the feet and can lead to amputation, or damage to the nerves that regulate blood pressure, heart rhythm and gut function.2
Basically, the longer you live with diabetes, the more your risk goes up of developing some kind to chronic health condition.
The outcomes are not great but there is so much you can do to change them.
The earlier you act, the better the results are likely to be and it doesn’t matter where you are on the journey you can always start now.
Type 2 diabetes is largely correlated to sugar consumption and by reducing your sugar intake you can help to reduce your risk of developing diabetes or, if you already have diabetes, you can manage it better.
‘Just reduce your sugar’ is much easier said than done and I know people who have diabetes who, if you look at the actual sugar they add to food, do not eat much ‘sugar’ at all.
The problem is that the sugar is hiding in the food you eat and just switching to ‘sugar free’ or choosing ‘no added sugar’ is not always helpful.
According to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on sugar, an adult should restrict their sugar to around 30g a day5 which works out to around seven and a half teaspoons of sugar a day. This varies a bit depending on whether you are male or female. The 30g number is for men, for women it is more like 24g.
Most people are consuming a lot more sugar than that each day.
Let’s crunch some numbers
A woman can have 24g of sugar a day, a man can have 30g.
A teaspoon of sugar is equal to around 4 g or sugar.
This means a woman can have 6 teaspoons of sugar a day and a man can have 7½.
And here are a few things you may not know….
Your liver breaks down all carbohydrates into sugar.
This includes the carbohydrates in fruit and vegetables but in reality, they are not usually contributing a huge amount to your daily carbohydrate intake.
It also includes the things in a processed food that may not technically be an ‘added sugar’.
For example, a muesli bar with ‘no added sugar’ may use dates for sweetness. Technically the dates are not an ‘added sugar’ even though their sugar content is high so they won’t show up that way on the label. A muesli bar may also contain oats which are high in carbohydrates, so that is also adding to the ‘sugar’ content of your food.
A more accurate sum would be to take the Total Carbohydrate number in grams on the food label and divide it by 4 to get an approximation of the number of teaspoons of sugar in that food.
Try this out and I think you will be surprised by what you find.
Some of the main culprits
Breakfast cereal. Because breakfast cereal generally uses a wheat or oat ‘flake’ it will usually be high is carbohydrates. You may find though, that there are more ‘sugars’ because of the ingredients.
Another thing to look for in breakfast cereal is serving sizes. Often the serving size is quite small and you may eat a lot more than they are using for their ‘serving size’.
If you find you are eating most of your sugar equivalent teaspoons at breakfast you might like to change what you have for breakfast.
I have a free download A Better Breakfast Builds a Better Body which can help you try some new things for breakfast.
Yoghurt. Nearly all flavoured yoghurts are very high in sugar. Try the sum on whichever is your favourite and see how it fares.
You may find that the serving size is an issue here as well. Some of those sizes can be pretty small!
I recommend finding a natural yoghurt and adding your own fruit or honey. You can control the amounts much more easily and know what you are eating.
Cooking sauces and tomato sauce. Pre-prepared sauces are also usually high in sugar so test out your new found knowledge and see how the ones you buy stack up.
Whole food and processed food
You could argue that the carbohydrates from the oats or wheat in a breakfast cereal, or any other food for that matter, are okay because they are a whole food.
That may be true and if all of your carbohydrates come from whole foods each day then it is unlikely you will ever be diagnosed as diabetic and so your risk of becoming blind is reduced simply because you eat well.
My point is that if you eat most of, or more than, your sugar allocation a day in one go, you are going to struggle with your health in the long run.
The risk of becoming diabetic and the health implications that come with that, including eye disease, are much higher if you choose not to act.
It is never too late
The important thing to remember here is that it is easy to swap foods just with a little knowledge and by reading the label, so that you can eat better, and potentially have an impact on your health
Start with breakfast, download my free A Better Breakfast Builds a Better Body and start reducing the amount of sugar you start your day with.
If you are ready to really make a difference and confidently change your food choices then join my course Healthy Eating is Easy! today.
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