Diabetes: The threat to Kiwis' health

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Alison Wilson has suffered from type 2 diabetes for the past 20 years.

Her father and both her siblings have the disease as well.

Diabetes affects more than 257,776 New Zealanders, 12,151 in the Bay of Plenty. Today marks World Health Day and diabetes is the focus this year.

It was estimated that 40 people were diagnosed with the disease each day, most of them with type 2 diabetes.

"In the beginning it was quite difficult to cut down on the sugar intake. Yet, after you have been diagnosed and you do cut it down you find you don't crave for something sweet and when you do put something in your mouth it tastes horrible," Mrs Wilson said.

She was able to control the disease with a healthy diet, regular exercise and a daily injection of Lantas.

Alison Wilson has been living with diabetes for 20 years but has been able to manage the disease. Photo / George Novak
Alison Wilson has been living with diabetes for 20 years but has been able to manage the disease. Photo / George Novak

"I don't crave for sweet things. I eat at regular times each day and we eat a lot of vegetables.

If we go out and everybody else is eating something sweet, I will have a piece of cheese or a piece of fruit instead.

"My best advice for anybody who is diagnosed is to bear through the cravings because they do become less and less. I found the first few months very hard. But really it's common sense, if you have got the problem you need to learn how to deal with it and stick with the rules."

Diabetes Help Tauranga nurse and field worker Debbie Cunliffe said the number of people with diabetes in the Bay of Plenty and the rest of the country had reached epidemic level.

In the next 10 to 15 years billions more people across the globe were projected to develop the disease, which was why the World Health Organisation had chosen the disease to focus on, Ms Cunliffe said.

The day was a good reminder for people to be checked for the disease, and to remind their friends, family and co-workers, too, especially if they were over the age of 55, she said.

Organisations such as Diabetes NZ and Diabetes Help Tauranga were out there to help people but people also had to take responsibility for getting checked and looking after themselves, she said.

A common misconception about diabetes was that it was caused by a high-sugar diet but it is also caused by high-starch food, she said.

"Up to 80 per cent of type 2 diabetes is preventable by healthy food choices, increased physical activity, and general lifestyle consideration. People don't just get diabetes because they eat too many lollies, cakes and biscuits.

"One of the reasons, which we don't realise, is because of foods like bread, rice, pasta, kumara and potato which contain starch. That starch turns into glucose which is equally invalid in a healthy diet."

Mrs Cunliffe said the good news was it was not hard to eat a healthy diet.

"Eat from the earth, sea and sky and avoid packaged foods.

"If you have to cut it out of a packet and heat it up in the microwave, you have to ask the question, is that good for me?"

Cutting down the amount of food consumed also helped.

"Do not super-size. Normalise the amount of food you are eating."

Health issue:

* The New Zealand Ministry of Health recognises diabetes as the largest and fastest-growing health issue in New Zealand. It is becoming a significant problem for people of all ages, all ethnicities and in every community. It will consume our national health budget within the next 10 years if not managed effectively now. For more information: www.diabeteshelp.org.nz/

- Bay of Plenty Times

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