Every day 50 New Zealanders are diagnosed with diabetes.
All about diabetes
Insulin is a chemical produced by the pancreas that helps our body process sugars. This ensures that there is not too much glucose (sugar) in our bloodstream. Diabetes is a condition where the body doesn’t make enough insulin or our cells become resistant to insulin, and as a result we have high levels of glucose in the blood.
There are two types of Diabetes that directly affect men:
Type 1 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood and occurs when your body stops producing insulin altogether. People with Type 1 diabetes need to have regular insulin injections to live.
Type 2 Diabetes is when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your cells become resistant. Type 2 diabetes is usually the result of poor diet choices, and is strongly linked with obesity.
90% of all cases of diabetes are Type 2.
50% of people with diabetes die from heart disease.
People can have Type 2 diabetes for years without realising it.
Not everyone has symptoms, but symptoms can include:
- Impotence (over half of men with diabetes will have impotence as a result)
- Poor eyesight or blurred vision
- Feeling thirsty often
- Having to pee often
- Frequently getting skin or urinary infections, and infections that take a long time to heal.
- Mood swings
Historically Type 2 diabetes was most prevalent in men 45+, but it is becoming more and more common for men in all age groups, including teenagers and even children.
Chances of developing diabetes increase if you are overweight, not very active, and eat a lot of food high in fat or sugar.
Diabetes can run in your family. You are more at risk if you have a family member with diabetes, or if you are Maori, Pacific, or South Asian.
Chances of developing diabetes increase as you get older. One in 5 men over 65 will have diabetes.
If you have symptoms of diabetes or are overweight, your doctor or nurse might send you to a lab to get a blood test called an HbA1c test. The HbA1c test can measure the average levels of glucose in your blood from the past three months.
If your blood glucose levels are too high, this means you will most likely be diagnosed with diabetes.
If your glucose levels are high, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, you might be diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is exactly what it sounds like – it means you almost have diabetes, and you need to make lifestyle changes to live healthier to reduce your blood glucose levels. Review your diet, try to eat healthier, cut back on alcohol, and get more exercise. Your doctor will organise the test to be repeated in 3-6 months time.
It’s really worth trying to avoid getting diabetes, because once you have it, unfortunately you’re stuck with it. But there’s heaps you can do to manage your condition that will help regulate your blood sugar and keep you as healthy as possible: eating better, losing weight, cutting back your drinking, and getting more exercise are essential.
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes and you chose to ignore it, you’re in for a troubled life. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, ulcers, and amputation of arms and legs. So it’s totally worth putting in the effort to make some changes.