Thousands of New Zealanders are being urged to seek medical advice after recently learning they are at greater risk of diabetes.
More than 3,500 people undertook an assessment of their risk factors during the inaugural Diabetes Action Month in November, with 68 per cent learning they potentially have a greater propensity for type 2 diabetes.
The core purpose of the first Diabetes Action Month was to alert New Zealand that everyone is at risk of diabetes. Activities in November included a national roadshow that visited 33 locations in 14 towns and cities, and the launch of an online version of the risk awareness tool, so everyone could assess their risk.
“We have identified almost 2,500 people who really need to see their GP for a clinical test,” Diabetes NZ chief executive Steve Crew reveals.
“This tool scores a range of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes – including ethnicity, weight and exercise traits – and if they score above 6 points, we recommend seeking medical advice.
“Alarmingly there were even people scoring above 20, suggesting they are at extremely high risk for having or developing type 2 diabetes and need to see their doctor.”
Diabetes is New Zealand’s fastest-growing health crisis. The number of New Zealanders living with diabetes has doubled from 125,000 to 250,000 in the past 10 years, with 40 new diabetes diagnoses every day.
It is estimated a further one in four New Zealanders has prediabetes and a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Approximately 90 per cent of New Zealanders with diabetes have type 2, and it is often more lifestyle related.
“It’s conceivable that many of those we have identified as at greater risk will be diagnosed with diabetes,” Crew says. “It is important they seek help and support, and find ways to manage their condition, including a healthy lifestyle of nutritious food and regular exercise.”
The Diabetes NZ team reported frequently seeing obese parents and young children having fried food and fizzy drinks; people who have family members with diabetes who were resigned to developing diabetes too; and vulnerable ethnicities unaware of their risks. Maori, Pasifika and Indo-Asian populations have a greater propensity for type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes Action Month included a mission for New Zealanders to “Join the MoveMeant” and ensure they committed to regular exercise and good diet. Type 1 diabetes cannot be avoided nor is there a cure for it, however even those with type 1 diabetes can benefit from a healthy lifestyle, as this will help them manage their incurable condition.
The initiative coincided with the World Diabetes Congress in Canada, where Crew says New Zealand sat high in international rankings for diabetes prevalence.
“The US has a reputation for fast food and poor nutrition, and has the highest rate of diabetes among the developed world, at 12.8 per cent. Sadly we are not that far behind.”
“New Zealand has a reputation of a clean, pure country, yet that image is sullied by being the 14th-worst among 38 developed countries,” Crew says. “More than nine per cent of New Zealanders have diabetes, compared to 6.3 per cent in Australia.“
Diabetes NZ has a lot of work to do to support our vulnerable population, Crew says, to ensure Kiwis have the tools they need to live well.
“We need New Zealand’s help. Everyone should take responsibility for driving change,” Crew adds. “New Zealand needs to collectively get behind this worrying epidemic, don’t turn a blind eye, it is New Zealand’s to own and change.”