Diabetes outlook grim

Western Sydney in throes of a diabetes epidemic that could be prevented 

WESTERN Sydney is in the throes of a diabetes epidemic that could be prevented with a few lifestyle changes, according to local health experts.

There are 3570 amputations every year in Australia as a result of diabetes- the second highest rate of amputation in the developed world.

Since July 2015, there have been 106 diabetes-related amputations performed across Western Sydney local Health District (WSLHD).

A further 1310 people were diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness.

“Diabetes is not only high in Australia but particularly high in western Sydney,” Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals senior staff specialist Dr Glen Maberly said. Dr Maberly said western Sydney is a “hot spot”, with residents one-and-a-half times more likely to develop diabetes than the Sydney average.

Contributing factors in western Sydney include suburban sprawl, accessibility of fast food outlets compared to fresh food, and multiculturalism. People of Indian, South-East Asian, Pacific Islander, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ethnicity are more likely to develop diabetes earlier and at a lower body weight.

Onset of type 2 diabetes typically occurs after 40, but doctors are seeing a growing number of cases in children. Dr Maberly said many people don’t realise the seriousness of developing type 2 diabetes and the ongoing health and lifestyle complications that can develop from poor blood glucose management.

Diabetes-related complications can damage the body’s organs, leading to serious and life threatening consequences.

“Some of the complications of diabetes are cardiovascular disease, nerve and kidney damage, eye and foot damage, skin conditions, hearing impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Maberly said.

“We encourage everyone to speak to their doctor about the disease and get tested if they have risk factors, including a family history of diabetes, are overweight or elderly, have high blood pressure, or smoke.”

Australians are four kilograms heavier than the average adult 20 years ago. Despite the worrying trend, Dr Maberly said it is not impossible to change the future of western Sydney. “If adults lost on average two kilograms, 30 per cent would not convert to diabetes.”

Dr Maberly said more physical activity and less food and drinks high in calories are the key to diabetes prevention. He and other health experts are also in consultation with the NSW Government to help create more  friendly, walkable” cities.

“Smart urban design can be quite important,” he said.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE – St Marys Star, Sydney – 12 July 2016