Diabetes is a common condition that is associated with many complications. Diabetes is on the rise worldwide and in Australia. It has been estimated that nearly one million Australians have diabetes, with almost half unaware they have the condition.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot properly control its sugar (glucose) levels.

Glucose is the main source of energy for the body and the main source of glucose is the carbohydrate foods we eat.

Carbohydrate foods include bread, pasta, rice, cereals, fruits, starchy vegetables and milk and yoghurt. Our bodies naturally break down carbohydrates and convert it to glucose. In order for our bodies to make use of this energy, a hormone called insulin must be present.

Diabetes results when the body does not make insulin or when the insulin does not work properly which leads to increased blood glucose levels.

Diabetes is a chronic condition, often present for the remainder of a person’s life.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5-15% of diabetics and often starts during childhood or as a young adult.

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known.

Type 1 diabetes is not at all connected with lifestyle factors, although maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for general health and well being.

While there is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, the disease can be managed through insulin prescribed by a doctor, regular blood glucose testing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes makes up 85-90% of all cases.

Generally, type 2 diabetes doesn’t develop until much later in life by comparison to type 1.

Unlike type 1, the cause of type 2 diabetes is better understood.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is greater if there is a family history of the condition.

The risk of developing type 2 is also associated with other lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, inactivity and a poor diet.

There is currently no cure for type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes will often be managed initially with healthy eating and regular physical activity.

However, over time most people with type 2 diabetes will also need medicine prescribed by their doctor.

Additional information

Diabetes Australia

Dietitians Association of Australia