November is Diabetes Action Month

Kiwis are being asked to Love Don’t Judge during Diabetes Action Month. Diabetes NZ is shedding light on the emotional burden of a chronic condition that affects quarter of a million of us.

Diabetes NZ is challenging everyone in Aotearoa to take action this November to understand and support Kiwis living with diabetes – our largest and fastest growing health crisis.

The first survey of people living with diabetes has uncovered the real impact of COVID-19 on the diabetes community. It also revealed the prevalence of little-known complications of diabetes distress and diabetes burnout, that affect the mental and emotional health of three quarters of New Zealanders with diabetes.

Over 1,000 New Zealanders with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes took part in the Diabetes & Emotional Health survey last month. It is the first time the emotional burden of diabetes has been surveyed in New Zealand.

This new research from Diabetes New Zealand has found that 81 percent of Kiwis living with diabetes have experienced diabetes distress, with almost a third of that number experiencing it in the last week.

The emotional and physical side of living with diabetes

Diabetes distress is the emotional burden of living with, and managing the relentless, 24/7 condition that is diabetes. People experiencing diabetes distress have feelings of failure, frustration or guilt in relation to diabetes management, or feel overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes.

Health psychologist Dr Anna Friis says emotional factors can have a real and measurable impact on physical health, with international research finding a strong link between greater diabetes distress and poorer blood glucose control.

“Research from Diabetes NZ found that 69 percent of New Zealanders living with diabetes have experienced diabetes burnout. This is where the day-to-day emotional stress and burden of caring for one’s diabetes becomes overwhelming, with people sometimes feeling unable to keep going with their self-management regimes. This is concerning in terms of the flow-on effects on physical health,”she says

“Reducing the stress of managing diabetes is important not just for improving mental health but it can also help physiologically, with research showing stress-management practises such as self-compassion can help to lower blood sugar levels. In the case of diabetes, good emotional and mental health has a direct link to better overall diabetes management. including better HbA1c.”

The impact of COVID-19 on those living with diabetes

Diabetes NZ CEO Heather Verry says the distress related to COVID-19 has been even more acute for the quarter of a million people living with diabetes in New Zealand.

“With one global pandemic in full swing, it’s important not to lose sight of the other pandemic facing New Zealanders – diabetes. Our survey shows that 45 percent of Kiwis with diabetes experienced more diabetes distress as a result of COVID-19. 14 percent experienced increased discrimination or stigma, and 24 percent were diagnosed with a new mental health disorder,” she says.

“Negative attitudes and a lack of understanding of diabetes are a big factor in the emotional wellbeing of people living with diabetes. In fact, there is so much misinformation out there that many people with diabetes keep their condition a secret. If we can’t tell people about diabetes for fear of prejudice and stigma, how are we going to get support for the huge emotional burden people living with diabetes are facing?

“We want the catch cry of November to be Love Don’t Judge. Our hope for Diabetes Action Month is for people to understand that acting on the Love Don’t Judge mantra is more than just expressing kindness. Understanding and supporting people living with diabetes is something everyone can do and that will have a significant impact on their emotional and mental health.”

Diagram showing the movement of insulin from the pancreas into the bloodstream to breakdown glucose for use by body cells.

Find out more about diabetes

More than 257,000 New Zealanders now live with diabetes. Also a significant number of people in New Zealand now have pre-diabetes. Every day 50 more people are diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is diagnosed when a person has too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. This happens because the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range.

Diabetes cannot presently be cured but it can be controlled and you can lead a full and active life.

You could be at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are European descent aged 40 years or older.
  • Have diabetes in your family (grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters).
  • Are Maori, Asian, Middle Eastern or Pacific Island descent aged 30 years or older.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Are overweight – especially if you carry most of your weight around your waist.
  • Are diagnosed as having pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. This occurs when the glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes.
  • Gave birth to a large baby weighing more than 4kg (9lbs).
  • Had high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) or diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Have had high blood glucose in the past.

Take an online test to find out if you are at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately up to 70 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. 70 percent of premature deaths among adults are largely due to behaviour initiated when they were teenagers.

There are some changes you can make to try and avoid type 2 diabetes developing, including:

  • Stay physically active and get regular exercise – aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Remember you don’t have to do all of your daily exercise at once.
  • Eat healthy food.
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range.

Get more information about type 2 diabetes (HealthInfo Canterbury).

Source: Diabetes New Zealand media release (1st November 2020) and website.

Published on Monday, November 2nd, 2020, under Uncategorised
Page last updated: 30/11/2020

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