‘21st century epidemic’ our fastest growing health issue

The ‘21st century epidemic’ afflicts another Australian every five minutes.

Finger prick

One Australian develops diabetes every five minutes, according to Diabetes Australia, making it the fastest growing chronic health condition in the country.

And for every person diagnosed with diabetes, there is usually a family member or carer who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day in a support role. This means that an estimated 2.4 million Australians are affected by diabetes every day.

On World Diabetes Day, the focus is squarely on what health professionals call “the 21st century epidemic”.

Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated). There is also a third form, gestational diabetes, which can affect pregnant women.

The Federal Government reminds sufferers that it is set to implement changes to the list of subsidised items available through the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) from 1 December.

Most people registered with the NDSS will not be affected by the changes, but up to 600,000 are likely to see some savings, the Health Department advises.

“The management of diabetes requires constant self-care and monitoring and if complications develop, [it] can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“These changes will reduce the costs for many families around Australia who are managing their diabetes.”

Products affected by the change include blood glucose test strips, which will reduce in price by $2 for general patients, and insulin pump infusion sets, which will decrease by $4.70.

When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of blood glucose – a form of sugar that is the main source of energy for our bodies – and unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to long-term and short-term health problems. For example, diabetes:

  • is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults
  • is a leading cause of kidney failure requiring dialysis
  • increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times
  • is a major cause of limb amputations
  • affects mental health as well as physical health, with depression, anxiety and distress occurring in more than 30 per cent of all sufferers of the disease.

So what can we do to slow the advance of the disease? Diabetes Australia says a few simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

1. Regular exercise
Working out will increase your body’s insulin sensitivity, making your cells more effective in transforming glucose into energy. Light, but consistent exercise such as a 30-minute walk can even reduce risks of diabetes by 30 per cent. Not up to a workout?  Put on some music on and dance around your living room.

For every two hours of television viewing, you are 20 per cent more likely to develop diabetes and 15 per cent more vulnerable to heart disease.

2. Quit smoking
The average smoker is 44 per cent more likely to develop diabetes.

3. Limit carb intake
Diabetes Australia says there is strong evidence that low carbohydrate diets can lower insulin by 50 per cent and blood sugar levels by 12 per cent. When choosing which carbs to consume, opt for whole grains. Studies revealed that the daily consumption of two servings of whole grains can reduce risks of type 2 diabetes by 21 per cent in contrast to those on a no-grain diet. Consider brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa as an addition to your next meal.

4. Limit sugary drinks
A study has revealed that women who drink 1–2 sugar-sweetened beverages per day were at 83 per cent higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

5. Eat less red meat
Red meat lovers will be sad to know that red meat is actually associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. A study has found that just eating a daily palm-sized amount of red meat will increase your risks by 20 per cent. Instead, opt for poultry, fish and whole grains.

Are you living with diabetes? Can you make lifestyle changes to manage the condition?


    Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    14th Nov 2018
    totally disagree with 2 statements.Smoking,back in the 50's and 60's,maybe 70% of the population smoked,diabetes was practically non existent ,likewise steak egg and chips was a regular meal,as were roasts,so where do these facts come from,pure guesswork.
    14th Nov 2018
    I agree with you, Thommo, and looking back to my teenage years I think we consumed far more sugar than today as well, I seem to remember drinking a lot of Coca Cola.
    14th Nov 2018
    I have Diabetes Type2...never been overweight, gone to the gym, always played sport - but I have tracked it on both sides of my family (back to a GG Grandfather on one side)- you can be genetically susceptible - so much shaming.
    14th Nov 2018
    Another load of "wally" trying to panic the public, if true we will all have diabetes by 2040, but don't worry, "Global Warning or Climate Change"
    will have killed us all off.
    15th Nov 2018
    The public should be panicked! The main cause of diabetes is lousy diet - too much sugar; fast food like McDonalds.
    15th Nov 2018
    1. There is also Medically induced diabetes as another type. It is referred to as Diabetes Type 3 or Type 1.5. I got from being given a huge does of steroids to fix a blood poisoning issue.
    2. A friend of mine has just been "diagnosed" with diabetes Type 2 after getting a HBa1c bllod test reading of 6.8. I don't understand how this is possibly Diabetes when those of us who have it, are told to aim for between 5 and 7 !! It has scared her for no reason. One wonders how many of the 500,000 unknown (???) cases are based upon such faulty reasoning as well.
    17th Nov 2018
    I just read about these tests in the book "Liver Rescue" by Anthony William, tell your friend to order it from her local library, if they don't have it yet, you can put in a purchase request. Or get the e-book which is cheaper the the hard copy.

    15th Nov 2018
    Diabetes has ruined my health.
    15th Nov 2018
    I am a diabetic 2 at least Choice is trying to do something,make the companys tell on the packet what sugar that is in the product that we can under stand
    17th Nov 2018
    It is not the carbs!! White processed ones yes, but we need good wholefood carbs. Anyone interested in the truth of health problems like these should read Liver Rescue by Anthony Williams, it is your liver that is over worked, diabetes is only a symptom not a disease.

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