New research from Melbourne's Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute suggests Australians with type 2 diabetes are up to three times more likely be diagnosed with some of the most deadly types of cancers and up to 60 per cent more likely to develop dementia than the general population.
The findings come as cancer referrals at Australia's leading oncology centres plummet by up to 30 per cent and diabetes testing drops by a third across the state, fuelling concerns seriously ill people may be going undiagnosed.
Experts are yet to determine the exact reasons behind the heightened risk of cancer, but suspected it could be tied to the role of insulin, the body's key hormone in regulating blood sugar-levels, fuelling cancer growth.
"Another theory is that the risk of cancer is heightened simply due to higher sugar levels," head of clinical diabetes and population health at the Baker Institute, Professor Jonathan Shaw, said. "Cancer cells love sugar so there is suggestion that increased sugar levels mean there is plenty around for cancer to grow more rapidly."
Mechanisms behind diabetes development may damage small blood vessels in the brain. There are a range of contributors towards developing vascular dementia.
"One of the causes of dementia are strokes or many small strokes, which are never seen as individual strokes," Professor Shaw said. "Strokes are far more common in people with diabetes, just like heart attacks."
WHO SHOULD BE CONCERNED?
Diabetes Australia have estimated that there are over two million people living in Australia that are pre-diabetic and are at a high-risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes describes a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, although not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms. However, the Risk Factors for pre-diabetes are like those for type 2 diabetes according to Diabetes Australia.
The Risk factors are:
- Being overweight – especially those who have excess weight around the waistline (i.e.: more than 94cm for men and more than 80cm for women).
- Being physically inactive.
- Having high triglycerides and low HDL-C (good cholesterol) and/or high total cholesterol.
- Having high blood pressure.
- Having a family history of type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease
Other people at risk include:
- Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
- Women who have had diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or given birth to a big baby (more than 4.5kgs).
- Those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background.
- Those from certain ethnic backgrounds such as the Pacific Islands, Asia, and the Indian sub-continent.
Diabetes needs early diagnosis to control the condition and avoid complications.
A blood test is used to diagnose diabetes. Most people with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2 diabetes will develop symptoms such as increased thirst, urination and tiredness. People will also find that wounds are slow to heal or that they experience persistent infections. However, most people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all.
During the blood test, the blood taken from a vein is analysed at a pathology lab for analysis. Tests that might be done include:
- A fasting sugar (glucose) test: Fasting is needed for at least 8 hours, often involving not eating or drinking overnight.
- A random glucose test can be taken at any time during the day.
- An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): The patient, who has already fasted, drinks a sugary drink and then has a blood test done, first one and then 2 hours later. Before the OGTT, the patient needs to eat and drink 150 grams of carbohydrates (found in starchy foods) each day for 3 days. If you need this test, your doctor or the healthcare professional requesting the test can advise on exactly what you need to do.
Another blood test that can be used to diagnose diabetes is the haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test, which measures the proportion of haemoglobin protein affected by glucose in circulation in the body.
The HbA1c test is a particularly useful measurement because it reflects the process of tissue damage that occurs in diabetes.
What can I do today?
One step is taking a simple food as medicine product twice a day as part of a way to manage diet. A food product high in dietary fibre, resistant starch and a wide range of essential micronutrients is NutriKane D. It is tailor made to help lower the Glycaemic Index of meals and has been clinically and scientifically proven to lower blood sugar levels and aid in weight reduction.
It is safe to take to improve your gut health and more. Give it a try (www.nutrikane.com.au)