Today is World Diabetes Day. So, what better time to discuss the different types of diabetes, symptoms and prevention.

A brief introduction to diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.

  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose).

  • Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes.

  • Gestational diabetes is a form of high blood sugar which affects pregnant women. Most women will no longer have diabetes once the baby is born.

The statistics:

  • 280 Australians develop diabetes everyday. That’s one person every five minutes.

  • 3 in 10 Australians with diabetes are undiagnosed.

  • Diabetes contributes to 10% of all deaths in Australia.

  • Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10% of all diabetes and is increasing.

  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85% of all diabetes and is increasing.


  • Type 1 diabetes: symptoms can include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, headaches, mood swings, having cuts that heal slowly, itching and skin infections, hunger, dizziness, weakness, fatigue and blurred vision.

  • Type 2 diabetes: symptoms can include excessive thirst and urination, gradual weight gain, headaches, mood swings, having cuts that heal slowly, itching and skin infections, hunger, dizziness, weakness, fatigue and blurred vision.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin because the cells that make the insulin have been destroyed by the body’s immune system. Without insulin, the body’s cells cannot turn glucose (sugar) into energy. People with type 1 diabetes have to administer their own insulin to replace the insulin the body no longer produces. They also have to test their blood glucose levels several times a day to prevent hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin. This results in high blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is linked to modifiable lifestyle factors.

Type 2 diabetes represents 85-90% of all cases of diabetes, yet - for some - the first sign may be a complication of diabetes such as a heart attack, vision problems or a foot ulcer. Prevention is better than a cure. Type 2 diabetes can be managed through a combination of regular physical activity, healthy eating and healthy weight management.

Type 2 diabetes develops over a long period of time (years). It is during this time that insulin resistance begins. This means the insulin your body produces is becoming increasingly ineffective at managing blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented, but type 2 can.
How can YOU prevent type 2 diabetes?

A healthy lifestyle can prevent up to 58% of type 2 diabetes!

  • Manage your weight. Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, can increase the risk of insulin resistance, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity on most days of the week help to lower your weight, lower blood sugar levels, improve blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet. Cut back on trans and saturated fats, eat more fruit, vegetables and high fibre foods. Also, cut back on salt and processed/take-away foods. Cook for yourself using fresh ingredients whenever possible!

  • Limit alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol can lead to weight gain and may increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

  • Quit smoking. Smokers have double the risk of developing diabetes.

  • Keep your blood pressure under control. Most people will be able to do this with regular exercise, a balanced diet and healthy weight management. But you need to have it checked to know whether it’s high or not - so check in with your GP!

  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease share risk factors, including obesity and physical inactivity.

  • See your doctor for regular check-ups. They’ll be able to regularly check your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Implications for employee health & safety/the workplace

  • Managing the condition is critical.

  • Retinopathy is estimated to effect 35% of people with diabetes and can result in severe vision loss and blindness.

  • Adults with diabetes have a two to three-fold increase risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

  • When blood sugar levels are too high (this occurs during hyperglycaemic episodes, uncontrolled diabetes or undiagnosed diabetes), this can affect cognitive abilities and vision.

  • The total economic cost of diabetes has been estimated at $14 billion, including direct healthcare costs and indirect costs such as reduced productivity, absence from work, early retirement and premature death. Annual costs are more than double for those with diabetes complications.

Time to do something about it? Contact Health by Design today. We’ll help you get started and reduce the risk of diabetes at your workplace.