Diabetes the lifestyle disease of the ages
By BELINDA SCOTT
"SHOCK ? it was a very severe shock ? I didn't know which way to turn.
"I wanted to go somewhere and talk about it, but I felt alone."
Reg Haigh is trying to describe what it felt like to be told he had Type 2 diabetes, after he felt 'a bit off-colour'.
Diabetes is being described as being an epidemic in NSW, with a 300 per cent increase in the number of people diagnosed with the disease in the past 10 years.
NSW now has 542,288 people with diabetes and more than 1400 of them are on the Coffs Coast, according to a map released at yesterday's NSW diabetes summit, which identified diabetes 'hotspots' around the State.
This region has seen a huge jump in numbers since 1995, when the region had less than 400 diabetics.
Bill Edmunds from Diabetes Australia NSW said hotspots tended to be in retirement areas, especially those with lower socioeconomic status or a higher Aboriginal population.
The Coffs Coast qualifies on all three counts.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for more than 85 per cent of all cases and figures released this week show cases of Type 2 diabetes have doubled in the past five years.
While a medical specialist has told Reg Haigh the onset of his diabetes may be related to the effect on his pancreas of a drug used to treat an unrelated medical condition, he says lifestyle and 'rich foods' are the big factors that are resulting in children as young as 12 years old being diagnosed with Type 2, generally known as mature onset diabetes.
Mr Haigh said although he was lucky to have reached 83, diabetes had affected his life in all sorts of ways, and he has had to make new rules for himself.
"This diabetes thing is a heartache, really," he said.
He does not keep forbidden foods, like soft drinks, in the house and he plans outings carefully.
He said when he succumbed to the temptation to order dessert on an outing or his sunroom was so comfortable he spent too much time there and not enough time exercising, the results showed up on his tests and it was no good getting angry with his doctor 'for telling me the truth'.
But Mr Haigh said he thought the government should exercise more control over food advertising.
While fast foods and takeaways are seen as a problem for younger people, Reg Haigh thinks older people should also change their ideas about catering for their functions, finding al- ternatives for cakes, biscuits, slices, and cream-covered scones.
A simple finger-prick blood sugar test at the chemist will establish if you have elevated blood sugar levels and need further testing.
To reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, follow a healthy eating plan, keep physically active and maintain a healthy weight and shape.