Blood glucose monitor

Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious and chronic condition that affects one in 20 (almost 1.3 million) Australians.[1]

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas can’t make insulin, isn’t producing enough insulin, or when the insulin produced isn’t used effectively by the body.

Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar, also known as blood glucose. Issues with insulin can lead to low or high blood sugar.

Types of diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes:

Other types of diabetes include gestational diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system breaks down the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. The cause of this auto-immune reaction is not entirely unknown, though research suggests that environmental factors and genetics may be involved.

Type 1 diabetes commonly occurs under the age of 30, but it can develop at any age.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes represents 85% of all diabetes cases in Australia.[1] It occurs when cells in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin and when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes is associated with genetic and modifiable lifestyle risk factors.

People with type 2 diabetes may initially have few to no symptoms, or their symptoms may go unnoticed for years.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes

Factors that can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:

Symptoms of diabetes

Common symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

How diabetes affects the heart

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes.

Around 65% of CVD deaths in Australia occur in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to experience atherosclerosis at an earlier age and with greater severity.

This increased risk of CVD and atherosclerosis is due to high blood sugar which causes damage to blood vessel walls. This damage can lead to inadequate blood flow to the body’s organs including the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and nerves, which in turn can lead to problems like heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and blindness.

Even when blood sugar levels are well-managed, people with diabetes are more likely to experience risk factors that can lead to CVD. This includes:

Management of diabetes

There is no cure for diabetes but managing the condition can reduce the risk of further complications.

Diabetes management may include the following:

Prevention of diabetes

The best way to prevent diabetes is to identify and understand your risk factors.

Once individual risk factors are identified, these can be addressed through lifestyle changes. This may include:

Speak to your GP to understand more about heart health and diabetes. You can download our Heart Health Check Guide to take with you to your next appointment.

We also offer free Victor Chang Heart Health Checks. These checks involve on-the-spot measurements of blood pressure, total cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Our Heart Health Check specialist will then provide you with personalised recommendations based on your modifiable heart disease risk factors.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal of the Eora nation, on which we meet, work, and discover.
Our Western Australian laboratories pay their respect to the Whadjuk Noongar who remain as the spiritual and cultural custodians of their land.

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