Why is type-2 diabetes on the rise?

Diabetes can develop at any age, but there are factors which put some at particular risk.

By Julia Braybrook
The increase in type 2 diabetes is fuelled in part by rising obesity rates.
Many of us follow a Western diet, which is high in refined carbohydrates and bad fats, and we're also living increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
These are both significant risk factors for the disease, so it stands to reason that if we change those risk factors there's a good chance we can stop the tidal wave of type 2 diabetes cases.
Diabetes can develop at any age, but there are factors which put some at particular risk.
It's good to be aware of your risk factors, so you can manage those that can be changed and seek help quickly if you're concerned.

Pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes risk factors

The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
A waist measurement of more than 80cm for women increases your risk. Reducing your weight by five to 10 per cent can prevent, delay or even reverse pre-diabetes.
The less active you are, the greater your risk.
Doing at least two and a half hours of physical activity per week can help you control your weight, use up sugar as energy and make your insulin work better.
Family history
You're two to six times more likely to get type 2 diabetes if you have a parent, sibling or child with diabetes.
Ethnic background
You have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you are of Māori, Pacific, or Indo-Asian background, Melanesian, Polynesian, or Chinese.
From 40, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes begins to rise and after 65 it increases exponentially. This may be because you tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as you age.
But type 2 diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, dolescents and younger adults.
Gestational diabetes
Women who had gestational diabetes when pregnant are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
You're also at risk if you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 4.5kg.
Tobacco use can increase insulin resistance and stimulate stress hormones, which can increase blood glucose levels and make it more difficult to manage pre-diabetes and diabetes.
High blood pressure
Having blood pressure over 140/90mm of mercury (mmHg) is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Having too much, too little or disturbed sleep can increase your risk.
Check out Sleep Health New Zealand for tips on a better night's sleep.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a common condition characterised by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity – increases the risk of diabetes.
PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance, and therefore higher blood glucose levels.
Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels
If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or 'good' cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher.
Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood, and people with high levels of these have an increased risk.
Too much alcohol is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. It's recommended that you have no more than two standard drinks a day, with some alcohol-free days each week.
If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you should drink alcohol at all.

How you can reduce your risk

Being overweight or obese is the most significant risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes.
It's important to remember that even if you have other risk factors, a healthy lifestyle can help to protect you from type 2 diabetes and improve your quality of life if you've already been diagnosed.
A recent study found eating 850 calories a day for three months can put type 2 diabetes into remission for at least two years.
After one year of the eating programme, 46 per cent of the 69 participants saw their blood sugar levels fall below the diabetes range, compared to four per cent who were given standard treatment, including pills.
Overall, more than a third of the participants were in diabetes remission by the end of the two-year period, and two-thirds of those who lost more than 10kg during the trial were in remission after two years.

Diabetes warning signs

Symptoms tend to develop gradually in type 2 and they are often mistaken as part of the normal ageing process. This is one of the reasons type 2 diabetes often goes undetected for years.
If you are experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms, see your doctor:
  • Feeling tired and rundown
  • Lack of energy for no specific reason
  • Gradually putting on weight
  • Constant thirst
  • More frequent need to pass urine
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts that heal slowly
  • Skin infections and itchiness
  • Increased appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Leg cramps
If you believe you are at risk or notice any possible diabetes symptoms, contact your doctor. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the sooner you can take steps to work on improving your health.

read more from