Could you have pre-diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is everywhere and on the rise, affecting more than 1.1 million Australians. It is estimated that for every person living with diabetes, there are another four either undiagnosed, or with pre-diabetes

 

So that means there are potentially 1 million more Australians living with diabetes today and another 2-3 million people with pre-diabetes who are not aware of it. 

We talked to Dr Alan Barclay, Accredited Practising Dietitian and author of the book Reversing Diabetes, about the condition and what you can do to prevent, treat and reverse it.

Why are there so many people not aware of diabetes?

"Symptoms for type 2 diabetes can be quite vague, which makes it hard to identify them early", says Dr Alan Barclay. 

Generally, diabetes starts to show signs when a person is in their mid-40s. You gradually start to get a bit tired and run down, your vision can sometimes get blurred, and when you get a cold, it takes a little longer to recover. 

“It is easy to attribute these signs to a normal ageing process and not make much of them. Diabetes often goes undiagnosed until you go to the GP for something else, and a routine screening picks it up. Sometimes people will go undiagnosed until they have complications of diabetes”.

Not everyone who develops diabetes is overweight

Although there is a strong association between being overweight and getting type 2 diabetes, about 1 out of 5 people who develop the condition have actually got a normal weight.

In his book Reversing Diabetes, Dr Barclay explains that where you carry your weight is a better indicator of risk - and your waistline is the danger zone. Measure your waist to height ratio by dividing your waist circumference by height, and if it is greater than 0.5, you are at a higher risk.

The key about healthy eating for managing diabetes is to make changes that you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life.

Where can I get help?

If you believe you are at risk, or if you are feeling unwell, visit your GP. "Your doctor is the best port of call for diagnosing diabetes. They will be able to organise a fasting glucose test that is covered by Medicare and will help you find if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes", say Dr Barclay.  
A GP can also refer you to an accredited dietitian, who will work with you to provide a personalised healthy eating plan. 

Consultation with a dietitian is also covered under Medicare. The referral letter and Chronic Disease Management plan from your GP will ensure you receive the available rebates, and will also give information on your medical history to help the dietitian create a tailor made eating plan. 

A healthy diet should be suitable for the long run

Lifestyle factors are the primary cause of type 2 diabetes, and the best tools to manage it. 

Changing your eating habits is not an easy task. "A healthy diet that will work in the long term should take into consideration personal preferences and circumstances, and should not isolate you from your social life", advises Dr Barclay.  

“Fad diets that require you to completely eliminate certain types of food or ingredients, or make eating out and socialising virtually impossible, are generally not sustainable. The moment you go back to your old eating habits, diabetes symptoms also come back”, he says.

The key about healthy eating for managing diabetes is to make changes that you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life.

Dr Alan Barclay is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and chief scientific officer at the Glycemic Index Foundation. He was Head of Research at the Australian Diabetes Council (Diabetes NSW) from 1998-2014. His latest book Reversing Diabetes is available worldwide.

Dr Alan Barclay is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and chief scientific officer at the Glycemic Index Foundation. He was Head of Research at the Australian Diabetes Council (Diabetes NSW) from 1998-2014.

His latest book Reversing Diabetes is available worldwide.