Type 2 diabetes: a health concern for women
Diabetes is a condition in which there is too much glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. This happens because the body’s method of converting glucose into energy is not working as it should. Blood glucose levels are controlled by a hormone called insulin.
Type 1 diabetes (formerly called Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or Juvenile Onset Diabetes), occurs when the body does not make enough insulin. It usually affects people under 30 years of age, but can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 10 -15 per cent of people with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes (formerly called Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or Mature Age Onset Diabetes), usually occurs in people who are over the age of 50 years and have a family history of diabetes. Being overweight and inactive also increases your risk. In people with Type 2 diabetes (85 – 90 per cent of all diabetes) the body does not use insulin properly, does not produce enough insulin or both.
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after the birth of the baby. Women who have had gestational diabetes are at much greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and these women should be tested every year for diabetes.
Pre-diabetes (sometimes called impaired glucose tolerance, or impaired fasting glucose) is where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not at the level of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and are at increased risk of heart disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition in women that increases the risk of diabetes and potentially heart disease in women.
Potential risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
- Are over 45 years of age and have high blood pressure, are overweight or have a family member with diabetes
- Are over 55 years of age
- Have heart disease or had a heart attack
- Have/had gestational diabetes
- Have pre-diabetes
- Have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Are over 35 years of age and are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or are from Pacific Islands, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background.
Signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes
- Increased thirst
- Slow healing of cuts
- Frequent urination
- Itching, skin infections
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Blurred vision
- Constant hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
With lifestyle changes, people who are at risk for diabetes or pre-diabetes may reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes and its associated complications.
Diabetes, Midlife and Menopause
The risk of developing pre-diabetes, diabetes and heart disease increases significantly at midlife and beyond. As women age, weight gain is common. Weight gain, particularly concentrated around the abdomen, is associated with a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women. Diabetes significantly increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Complications of diabetes
Diabetes related complications include damage to the blood vessels and nerves that often cause problems to the eyes, kidneys, heart and feet. However, the risk of developing such complications can be minimised by:
- Managing blood glucose levels
- Managing cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats)
- Not smoking
- Managing high blood pressure
- Appropriate foot care
- Regular medical reviews to check the backs of eyes, blood pressure, kidney and nerve function
Making Sensible Lifestyle Changes
Almost one in four Australians aged 25 years and over has either diabetes or pre-diabetes. A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and forms the cornerstone of management once a person has been diagnosed with diabetes.
1. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods by eating plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruit and wholegrain cereals. It is important to also include lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives. Reduced fat dairy products are preferred and water is the best fluid option.
2. Take care to limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake, choose foods low in salt and limit alcohol if you choose to drink. Only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars are recommended.
3. Prevent weight gain by being physically active and eating according to your energy needs.
4. Care for your food through preparing and storing it safely.
Everyone can benefit from regular physical activity. The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week, plus being as active throughout your day as possible.
- Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience.
- Be active every day in as many ways as you can.
- Put together at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
- If you can, also enjoy some regular, vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness.
It’s never too late to start
Small increases in daily activity can come from little changes carried out throughout the day. For example, making a habit of walking or cycling instead of driving or riding in a car; doing some gardening; walking up stairs instead of using the lift or an escalator; and/or doing things by hand instead of using labour-saving machines. All these things can add to the level of daily physical activity.
It is important to remember that some activity is better than none, and more is better than a little.
Choose an activity that you enjoy doing and one that will fit into your daily routine. You can exercise with a friend or a group or on your own. There are many activities that cost little or nothing. Start with moderate levels of activity and work your way up. If you can’t do 30 minutes in one go, try to be active for 10 minutes, three times a day.
Just try to be active in lots of little ways, and use any chance for physical activity as an opportunity to improve health. This is likely to provide health advantages to most people, irrespective of age, weight, health condition or disability.
Over time, regular exercise actually increases your energy levels and improves your ability to sleep.
Please note: People with diabetes should consult their health professional before starting a physical activity plan.
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