Diabetes

This diabetes health guide is part of our promise to provide valuable preventative and disease management advice to members.

Managing Diabetes

In this diabetes health guide, you can find useful information for managing diabetes and understanding your tests and results. You can maximise your member benefits by taking advantage of our Chronic Disease Management programs, which are designed to assist you with managing and controlling your diabetes.

Diabetes in Australia

Diabetes is a serious chronic disease in Australia, affecting an estimated 1.8 million Australians. Diabetes is usually caused by too much glucose in the bloodstream, and some of its more serious complications include heart disease, kidney disease, eye complications, reproductive complications, neuropathy (peripheral nerve disease) and foot and skin problems. These can arise from hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) or hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar levels). 

 

Types of diabetes

There are two major types of diabetes: 

  • Type 1 diabetes - Also known as insulin dependent diabetes, is hereditary and affects around 10-15% of all instances of diabetes. It is more common in children and young adults, and it occurs when the cells producing insulin don’t work. While lifestyle factors are not known as causes of this type of diabetes, maintaining a healthful lifestyle is important for managing Type 1 diabetes.

  • Type 2 diabetes - Is known as non-insulin dependent diabetes and affects 85-90% of all diabetes cases. It occurs when the body stops responding to insulin, so carbohydrates and sugars are not properly metabolised. It is correlated with being over the age 50, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Gestational diabetes is another type of diabetes that can occur when a woman is pregnant and the body does not produce enough insulin or does not use the insulin correctly for some reason.

 

Major risk factors

Risk factors include having a family history of diabetes, increased age, being overweight, being from certain backgrounds (such as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese), having high blood pressure and smoking. Research has shown that as many as 60% of diabetes cases are preventable through a more healthful lifestyle.

Understanding your test results

(i) Blood Glucose

Blood glucose levels are monitored at short intervals (sometimes daily or several times a day), and this can be done by you. Glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) tests are done at longer intervals by your doctor, often two or three months apart.

While blood glucose levels can fluctuate during the day, HbA1c shows how well the body is managing blood glucose levels across the longer term. Hence, HbA1c tests can tell you if you are at risk of developing complications or not.

Generally, an HbA1c result of 6.5-7% indicates a good control of your diabetes, but this will depend on whether you’re taking medication or insulin. Your doctor will let you know what a good HbA1c result is for you. 

(ii) Hypoglycaemia and Hyperglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia occurs when blood sugar levels are extremely low (usually under 3.57mmol/L). Shaking, sweating, blurred vision and headaches are some of the common symptoms of hypoglycaemia. 

Not eating enough food, skipping meals, exercising without a sufficient carbohydrate intake, alcohol or a change in medication have been known to lead to hypoglycaemia. You should eat some carbohydrates if you experience hypoglycaemia, and consult your doctor if you have any doubts.

Excessively high blood sugar levels or hyperglycaemia (usually over 7mmol/L to 11mmol/L depending on the time of day) can result in fatigue, thirst, frequent urination, vision problems and other longer-term complications. This can happen if you miss your medication, experience high levels of stress, make lifestyle changes or need to change your medication plan. If you have hyperglycaemia, your doctor will let you know if you need treatment or a change in your treatment plan.

(iii) Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease

Diabetes has been strongly linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a higher risk of stroke and heart disease. The Royal Australian College of GPs and Diabetes Australia has provided health targets for those with diabetes, including a HbA1c level of 7% or lower, total cholesterol of less than 4 mmol/L, and blood pressure under 130/80. The other targets are not smoking, weight control, and lowering or eliminating alcohol consumption.

Your doctor will probably monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure, but if not you can request that these checks be carried out regularly.

(iv) Other Checks and Tests

As diabetes can put you at a higher risk of developing a range of long-term complications, you should make sure you have other self-checks and checks conducted by doctors carried out. These include monitoring your weight, feet checks, eye examinations, lipid checks, dental check-ups and kidney tests.

Discuss these tests and checks with your doctor to determine the best periodic intervals. 

Feet checks are important as diabetes can lead to blood vessel damage and lack of feeling in the feet. Wearing properly fitted shoes and doing daily or regular checks for redness, cuts, swelling or any anomalies on the tops and bottoms of feet are recommended. Your doctor will probably check your feet several times a year, but self-checks are also vital.


 Treatment and therapies

You might be prescribed medication or insulin to control or boost insulin levels. Insulin injections are usually required when insulin levels are too low. There are five main types of insulin, and your doctor will explain which one or combination of these is best for you.

Medications for diabetes are usually oral and they are used for Type 2 diabetes to reduce or control hyperglycaemia (excessive blood glucose). These medications include biguanides, sulfonylureas, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, meglitinides and thiazolidinediones. They may work by directly acting on blood glucose levels or by boosting insulin in the blood stream. Your doctor will let you know which medications are best for you.

Please note that if you decide to use any complementary therapies, you should discuss these with your doctor before taking them, as they may affect therapies used to maintain blood sugar levels.

 

Maintaining a healthful lifestyle 

Diet, lifestyle, smoking status and exercise can have a significant and positive impact on diabetes. Your diabetes management program should incorporate ways to improve your diet and increase exercise levels.

Eat low-fat, high-fibre and low-glycaemic foods, and drink sufficient amounts of water throughout the day. Do some exercise every day, whether it’s a brisk walk or a bike ride.

You should consider quitting smoking as it is proven to have a detrimental impact on diabetes complications. Alcohol should be limited, and two standard drinks or less each day may be appropriate.

If you have any doubts about how to maintain a healthful lifestyle, ask your doctor for advice.

 

Families and diabetes

Those with close family members who have diabetes are more likely to develop diabetes at an earlier stage in their life. As such, good preventative or management measures such as early detection, maintaining a healthful diet and staying active are essential for families with diabetes. Encourage family members, particularly younger children, to be screened for diabetes if there is a family history of the condition.


Managing Diabetes with a Diabetes Management Plan

One of the key reasons you should have a diabetes management plan is because a clear action plan can help you prevent complications from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. A management plan can improve your quality of life for happier, healthier and longer living. 


Managing diabetes with a diabetes management plan

One of the key reasons you should have a diabetes management plan is because a clear action plan can help you prevent complications from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. A management plan can improve your quality of life for happier, healthier and longer living.

Your management plan should include the following elements:

  • A checks and tests calendar
  • An up-to-date health diary
  • A commitment to consulting your health providers regularly or as often as required
  • Following your recommended medication program, where applicable
  • Maintaining a healthful diet and getting adequate amounts of exercise

It is a good idea to develop your plan with your doctor or have your doctor review your management plan on a regular basis.  


Your management plan should include the following elements:

  • A checks and tests calendar
  • An up-to-date health diary
  • A commitment to consulting your health providers regularly or as often as required
  • Following your recommended medication program, where applicable
  • Maintaining a healthful diet and getting adequate amounts of exercise

CBHS’s Chronic Disease and Health Management Programs

CHBS prioritises supporting members in achieving greater wellbeing and health. Our chronic disease management programs and health management programs are two of the ways in which we offer members outstanding value and preventative and management advice.

  • Chronic disease management programs - These offer members the ability to self-manage your condition, as well as providing you with support from health professionals. This is done in the aim of allowing members with chronic disease such as diabetes to achieve better lifestyle and health outcomes. You can find out more about our chronic disease management programs, including eligibility factors, by visiting this page.
  • Health management programs - Members with Extras or packaged cover can take advantage of our health management programs, which pay benefits for a range of preventative health checks and health management services. These include quit smoking programmes, weight management programmes, yoga, Pilates and gym memberships. Find out more by visiting our wellness benefits page

Creating a diabetes health diary

You can record and track your progress with a personal diabetes health diary. Use a word processor or dedicated notebook or folder for recording the dates and details of all your medical check-ups.

You should record all other details such your weight, medicines and routine check results such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Having these details on hand gives you greater control and helps you make informed decisions about improving lifestyle, diet and other factors.

More information

To find out more about our Diabetes Program please, contact our Health & Wellness Consultants; Karen on 02 9843 7620 or Wendy on 02 9685 7567 or; our Clinical Health Manager, Sam on 02 9843 7616, or simply email wellness@cbhs.com.au.