Three separate articles landed in my inbox in the last week about the prevalence of diabetes.
To be fair, I get a number of these on a regular basis but when they all come in at once, it is worth checking what is going on.
The first article is about global cases of diabetes doubling to 1.3 billion people by 2050 and the second article is about the increasing’ burden of health’ that type 2 diabetes places on our medical system here in Australia.
Diabetes burden of health
The ‘health burden‘ is really why diabetes presents such a problem.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and neuropathy which can then result in gangrene which can lead to amputation, usually of the lower limbs.
All of these health conditions come with their own set of complications and impact quality of life and healthcare costs.
It is important to note that diabetes is largely divided into two types.
Type 1 is generally accepted to be an autoimmune disease which can be diagnosed at any age and the cause is not known. People living with type1 diabetes are often diagnosed quite young, many of them in childhood and they manage the disease from an early age.
With type 2 diabetes your body loses the ability to produce insulin in your pancreas and it may be possible to slow or reverse the progress. People with type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed when they are older, although this is beginning to change.
Type 2 diabetes is calculated to make up around 95% of the number of people living with diabetes and there is a relationship between consuming sugar and ultra processed food and diabetes.
In Australia, according to the research from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) the number of people living with type 2 diabetes tripled between 1990 and 2019. If the same kind of increase continues the percentage of population will also be much higher in the future.
On the positive side, you are less likely to die from diabetes now than you were 30 years ago but you are more likely to experience medical complications. I’m not sure how much consolation that is for you…
What this means for you
The thing about all these numbers and percentages is that they can be confusing and many people have a tendency to gloss over them.
Especially when the numbers become big and more difficult to imagine and you don’t really want to think about the possibility for you.
So, let’s see if I can break it down a bit for you. Based on figures from 2021 around one in 20 people in Australia are living with diabetes. That means that maybe not in your immediate family, but possibly in your extended family and definitely among your friends, at least one person is living with diabetes. In 1990 that would have been around 1 in 50, so while you may have had a friend with diabetes, you may not have had anyone in your family living with diabetes.
If the numbers double as suggested then around one in 10 people in Australia would have diabetes which means there would definitely be someone you know living with diabetes.
There are, of course, a number of environmental and genetic predispositions to all of this so you could have a lot of people in your immediate circle who are diabetic, or you may have very few.
You get to change your future
However these numbers make you feel, and the current set of number does look bleak, and whatever your set of risk factors may be, the outcome is not set in stone.
There is ample research and more anecdotal evidence than you can poke a stick at to show that you can change your type 2 diabetes diagnosis and prevent it if you want to.
It may not be the easiest thing you ever do, but it surely won’t be the hardest either.
Compare changing what you eat and doing a bit of exercise to having your leg amputated and I think you will agree that losing a leg would be harder.
It’s like the old quote: “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, and the second best time to plant a tree is now.”
If you keep putting it off, it won’t get any better and if you start now, it will.
In fact, if you start now and make a few changes and then make a few more you can make really big improvements over time.
I never got to the point where I had an ugly diagnosis but I was overweight and eating badly and I hardly ever did any form of exercise.
Around 15 years ago I changed that and I mostly did it by changing what I ate. Within a relatively short time I lost around 15 kilos, that’s about 33 pounds in the old money, had more energy and my sleep improved.
With the change in how I was feeling I started yoga and I sill do some form of exercise each day. All of the numbers in my annual blood test are very different from what they were then, when you would expect that, as I age, they would be showing more markers and sending me down the path for more tests.
I helped some friends and eventually started to write and speak about what I know.
I realised that if I could help more people change their food in easy practical ways then I really would be making a difference.
If you would like to make a start on changing things for yourself you might like to try some of what I have created:
Start with breakfast and my free recipes A Better Body Builds a Better Breakfast,
Or try my new 5 Day Reduce Your Sugar Challenge,
Or dive straight into my course Healthy Eating is Easy! and learn about all of the aspects of food you can change.
Whatever it is you decide to do. Just do something so that you don’t become part of the diabetes health burden.