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What is it?

Diabetes has been referred to as the biggest challenge facing Australia’s health care system.1 It is a serious condition that can affect quality of life and longevity.

A person with diabetes cannot convert glucose (a form of sugar) from food into energy because their body doesn’t produce enough insulin (a type of hormone). This means they are exposed to unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood. Longer-term this can have serious health implications like blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and limb amputation.

Types of diabetes

There are three common types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational. Type 1 accounts for around 10% of cases, Type 2 accounts for 85% and gestational diabetes is the third most common.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition and occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes require insulin every day via an injection or pump and also need to test their blood glucose levels a number of times a day.

Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when there is reduced insulin production or insulin resistance. It is a progressive condition that usually develops around the 45 year mark but younger people are being increasingly affected. Over time, a person with Type 2 diabetes may require medication or insulin.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Women should be tested for gestational diabetes between weeks 24-28 of their pregnancy. It usually resolves after the baby is born but for some women, may develop into Type 2 diabetes.

Warning signs

The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are often sudden and include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, weakness, fatigue and blurred vision. In some cases, the first sign may be a related health complication like heart attack, vision problem or foot ulcer.

For Type 2 there is some overlap from those mentioned above however weight gain (not loss), slow healing cuts, increased hunger, itching/skin infections, mood swings, headaches, dizziness and leg cramps are signs that should be investigated further. Cases can often go undiagnosed because no symptoms are present, or symptoms are put down to the natural ageing process.

Risk factors

The risk factors for Type 1 diabetes are not yet conclusive but it is thought to have a strong family link.

Type 2 diabetes can also be hereditary and people from certain ethnic backgrounds (e.g. Chinese, Indian, South Asian, Indigenous) may be more at risk. Being obese is another red flag for Type 2 diabetes. Further risk factors include being 45 years or older and having high blood pressure. A diabetes risk calculator can be found at diabetesaustralia.com.au/risk-calculator. It assesses your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over the next five years based on 11 questions.

There are numerous risk factors for gestational diabetes. Women are at a higher risk if they are aged over 40, have a family history, are above a healthy weight range, have had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or delivered a large baby in the past. On the other hand, some cases occur in women with no known risk factors so it’s important to be tested when pregnant.

Protect yourself: Minimise risk

• The first step to protect yourself against diabetes is to understand your risk factors. At this stage there is no way to prevent or cure Type 1 diabetes but scientists are working on it. While lifestyle is not a known causal factor, it is hugely important in managing Type 1 diabetes.
• There is more certainty around Type 2 diabetes. Research shows around 60 per cent of cases can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough exercise, not smoking, keeping cholesterol and blood pressure in check, and having a healthy diet.1
• Gestational diabetes requires a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity. Blood glucose levels need to be checked during the day while pregnant and in some circumstances, medication or insulin injections will be required. After the baby is born, there is an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes so follow-up is required.
• Knowing your risk, consider whether you have adequate insurance (e.g. life, trauma, total & permanent disability, income protection) to protect what you value most in life.


1. Diabetes Australia. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/diabetes-in-australia

Current as at September 2018. This material is intended to provide general information and does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of an investor. It is not a substitute for independent professional advice. ClearView Wealth Limited and its related entities (each “ClearView”) distributing this document and each of their respective directors, officers and agents believe that the information contained in this document is correct and that any estimates, opinions, conclusions or recommendations contained in this document are reasonably held or made as at the time of compilation. However, no warranty is made as to the accuracy or reliability of any estimates, opinions, conclusions, recommendations (which may change without notice) or other information and, to the maximum extent permitted by law, ClearView disclaims all liability and responsibility from any direct or indirect loss or damage which may be suffered by any recipients through relying on anything contained in or omitted from this document. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of this material is strictly prohibited. Further information is available from www.clearview.com.au.

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