One of the things I find most challenging about being a GP, is convincing patients to consider the consequences of their health choices now on their future selves. Would you warn your past self of anything if you had the chance? Dr Dale Garred
1 in 20 Australians have diabetes. Dr Dale Garred goes through the basics of Diabetes, how you can reduce your risk and the routine screening you should be undertaking as you age.
What is ‘Diabetes’
Diabetes is a condition in which the body has trouble transporting glucose (“sugar”) out of the blood stream and into the cells.
If glucose is left in the blood stream, it can cause damage to the blood vessels and the organs they supply e.g. the eyes, brain, kidney and heart.
Type 1 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in younger people and is due to a genetic defect. This defect results in a complete lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas (a gland just below the stomach). Think of insulin as the key that opens the doors (glucose channels) that let glucose move from the blood into the body cells. A complete lack of insulin means high levels of glucose remain in the blood stream.
In Type 2 Diabetes, patients DO have insulin, but the cells don’t respond well to it (insulin resistance) and the pancreas doesn’t produce enough for the amount of glucose that is in the blood (e.g. if you have a high sugar diet). It’s like the key doesn’t fit in the lock very well anymore, and so the gate doesn’t open fully. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood stream, causing damage.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Sometimes patients with diabetes have no symptoms, and can go undiagnosed for a long time, but common symptoms include:
- Feeling very thirsty
- Urinating frequently, particularly at night
- Feeling excessively tired
- Slow healing wounds
- Itching and skin infection
- Mood swings
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
Why should you care?
Even if you have no symptoms of diabetes, the long-term consequences of excess sugar in the blood stream are serious. It can impair your independence, function and quality of life, resulting in
- Limb amputations
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
- Sexual difficulties including erectile dysfunction
- Foot ulcers or infections resulting from circulation problems and nerve damage
- Overall reduced life expectancy
Are you at risk of Type 2 Diabetes?
While there is no single cause of Type 2 Diabetes, there are well-established risk factors. Some risk factors can be controlled and others you are born with.
Risk Factors you can control/change
- Overweight and obesity (BMI > 25kg/m2)
- Doing little physical activity
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Tobacco smoking
- Inadequate fruit and vegetable intake
- Excessive alcohol
Risk Factors you can’t Control
- Age > 45 years
- Family history of diabetes
- If you have had Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy
How can your GP Help?
The government recommends anyone between the age of 45 and 49 complete a health assessment with their GP. We BULK BILL this appointment at Manly Village Medical. As part of this health assessment we will calculate your risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases, as well as perform a full physical examination and ECG (heart tracing).
During this appointment we may also
- Arrange cholesterol and blood glucose testing
- From the age of 45 you should consider your first cholesterol blood test
- This should be repeated every 1-5 years thereafter depending on the result
- Check your vaccines are up to date, in particular
- Whooping Cough/Tetanus
- Discuss your bone health and work out if you are at risk of osteoporosis
- Some people may benefit from a bone density test
- Determine your ideal weight
- Discussing individualised strategies on how you can achieve your weight loss goals
- Check your risk for skin cancer and if you would benefit from a skin check
If you think you have any symptoms or risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes OR you would like to book your 45-49 year old FREE health assessment, please phone our friendly reception staff to book an appointment.