You may have heard in the news this week about a new report from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, called the Dark Shadow of Type 2 Diabetes.
The report says that people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop some types of cancer including liver cancer, endometrial cancer and pancreatic cancer, and 60 per cent more likely to develop dementia than someone without diabetes. It also reminds us that people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to experience cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes.
These are very sobering statistics for people with type 2 diabetes and their loved ones. However, if you are living with diabetes, we’d like to remind you that there are things that you can do to minimise your risk of diabetes complications, and that we are here to support you with our advice and programs.
1. Keep your regular appointments with your GP and other health professionals
If you have recently delayed or cancelled visits to your normal health professional, now is the time to get back in touch. Regular check-ups help to screen for some complications, with the aim of detecting and treating them early. Check-ups can also help you to monitor any existing health complications to make sure you are continuing to receive the best treatment.
Developed with your doctor, your Annual Cycle of Care is a plan that gives details of your diabetes management strategies, goals and targets. It also serves as a reminder as to when you are due for important tests, such as HbA1c, eye tests, foot assessments kidney function tests and dental check-ups.
It is important to have these tests done to ensure that your blood glucose levels are being well managed by your current lifestyle and medications, or to make changes if your levels are straying outside targets. Developing this plan is also an opportunity to discuss any concerns you have and talk about referrals to allied health professionals to help support your plan.
2. Review your medications
According to the Dark Shadow of Type 2 Diabetes report, keeping your blood glucose levels within target range is effective for reducing the risk of microvascular complications (eg. problems with your kidneys, eyes or feet), but not necessarily effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. This shows that reducing the risk of complications isn’t solely about your blood glucose management. Every element of your annual cycle of care is important. Some newer diabetes medications, such as SLGT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists, have been shown to have cardio-protective effects, and the report suggests that GPs should consider these medications for people with type 2 diabetes and high risk of – or existing – cardiovascular disease.
Deborah Schofield, Health Service manager at Diabetes WA, said many people who are at risk, and would benefit from more intensive cardio-protective therapy, are not currently receiving it.
“If you have any history of cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke, or have a history of cardiovascular disease in your family, then it’s definitely worth having a conversation with your GP about preventative treatments. These medications can reduce the risk of heart failure hospitalisation by around 30 per cent”, Deborah said.
If you are unsure about your medications, a pharmacist can provide an in-home medicine review or you can get free advice from the Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth Service.
3. Understand how to manage your diabetes when you aren’t at the doctor
Your GP is central to your formal diabetes care plan, but they can’t be with you 24/7. The decisions you make every day around diet, exercise, medications and your mental health will have the biggest impact on your long term health.
But that doesn’t mean you are alone – help is at hand. Diabetes WA has several free services that you can use when you like, to help you stay on top of your health. For example:
- Diabetes WA LIVE webinars provide practical tips on topics such as annual cycle of care, blood glucose monitoring, food label reading, sick day management, and healthy snacks You can participate in comfort at home, using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Our webinars are free for everyone registered on the NDSS. From July, free face to face workshops will be restarting in the community as COVID-19 restrictions ease further.
- The Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth service connects you to a diabetes educator, dietitian, nurse, exercise physiologist and pharmacist, over the phone or on your computer. Phone for a chat, ask a burning question or choose an extended telehealth appointment.
- The MyDESMOND program is an online program for people with type 2 diabetes that empowers you to confidently manage your diabetes in a way that suits your lifestyle. It brings together evidence-based content including short videos, learning sessions and interactive activities on health, diet and exercise that you can work through in your own time, setting goals that you feel are achievable.
Deborah Schofield said Western Australians with type 2 diabetes deserve support to manage their condition.
“Type 2 diabetes is a very serious condition. There is a lot of support available, but it can sometimes be tricky to know where to turn. Diabetes WA helps people with diabetes by providing practical advice from credentialled diabetes educators, and connecting people with the help they need”, Deborah said.