Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose (sometimes referred to as sugar) in the blood. Over time high glucose levels can damage the body’s blood vessels and nerves.
There are three main types of diabetes including:
The EXPOsing diabetes program focuses on diabetes management for adults living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If you are looking for information on gestational diabetes visit our website.
In order for our bodies to do everything we need to do we require energy, which comes from the food we eat.
When we eat foods that contain carbohydrates, our mouth, stomach and intestines break this food down into glucose, our body’s main energy source. Glucose enters our bloodstream so it can be transported to the body’s cells. The amount of glucose we have in our bloodstream is referred to as our ‘blood glucose level’ or BGL for short.
An increase in our BGL stimulates the release of a hormone called insulin from our pancreas.
Insulin acts like a key to ‘unlock’ our body’s cells, allowing glucose into those cells so that it can be used for energy.
When you have diabetes, your pancreas either cannot make insulin, or the insulin produced is not enough, does not work properly, or both. In managing diabetes your body can experience high BGLs (hyperglycaemia) or low BGLs (hypoglycaemia) which are glucose levels outside of the target range.
BGLs outside the healthy range can be harmful to our bodies. Maintaining your BGL within the healthy range is important for ongoing health and wellbeing as well as reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Staying healthy with diabetes
How you manage your BGLs depends on your type of diabetes, personal circumstances and other medical conditions.
Understanding blood glucose monitoring
Regularly monitoring what your blood glucose levels are is an important part of keeping your body well when you have diabetes. It also helps you understand how your body is responding to changes in what you eat, your physical activity, medicines and other factors.
It is important to know when and how often it would be useful for you to monitor you BGL so discuss this with your diabetes health care team. It’s also important to understand what your BGLs mean for your diabetes management and ongoing health.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers can support individuals and families in manging diabetes and connect you with other health professionals.
The amount of carbohydrate refers to both the serving size and the carbohydrate content of the food.
The amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Can be measured with capillary (taken from a finger prick) or venous (pathology test) blood.
An abbreviation of blood glucose level, BGLs refers to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream.
Carbohydrates are one of the body's main energy sources. Carbohydrates are broken down in our digestive system into glucose. This glucose is then released into the bloodstream where it can travel around the body and be used for energy.
Includes high density liproprotein cholesterol (HDL) and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). It is ideal to have high HDL and low LDL as HDL helps prevent heart disease by moving fat to the liver to be processed, whereas LDL encourages fat to deposit in our arteries.
A diabetes educator will provide you with information to manage your diabetes. They can also help you develop action plans for the unexpected (e.g. low or high BGLs).
A dentist assists with oral health and provides treatment.
Your dietitian can provide you with individualised information about healthy eating.
The estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) is a blood test that is used to assess how well your kidneys are working.
An endocrinologist is a medical specialist who sees people with diabetes, especially those with type 1 diabetes, or those who are pregnant and have diabetes.
Your GP has a central role in overall assessment and management. Visit your GP regularly and discuss any problems as soon as they arise. Other members of your team, including specialists, will link in with your GP.
The glycaemic index (GI) is a way of describing how a carbohydrate containing food affects blood glucose levels.
Refers to a raised level of glucose in the blood.
Refers to a low level of glucose in the blood.
A measure of, on average, how much glucose has been in your blood stream over the previous 2-3 months. It is reported either as a percentage (%) or in mmol/mol.
High density liproprotein cholesterol (otherwise known as 'good' cholesterol) is the type of cholesterol carrier which takes fats from our bloodstream, to our liver for processing. It is ideal to have high levels of HDL cholesterol as this can help prevent heart disease.
Ketones are compounds produced by the body when fat is broken down for energy. Small amounts of ketones in the bloodstream are harmless. However, in large amounts they can be extremely dangerous.
Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (otherwise known as 'bad' cholesterol) is the type of cholesterol carrier which deposits fat in our arteries. High levels of this cholesterol can lead to blockages in the arteries and heart disease.
This urine test measures how much albumin (protein) is released through the kidneys which can indicate kidney damage.
Damage to the big blood vessels that can lead to peripheral vascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
Damage to the small blood vessels that can cause eye, kidney, feet and nerve problems.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, avocados and nuts, as well as olive, sunflower, peanut and canola oil. These fats help to increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol, which can decrease the risk of heart disease.
An ophthalmologist is an eye specialist who can monitor any changes in your eyes and provide treatment.
Your optometrist assesses eye health and prescribes your glasses.
Refers to nerve damage of the feet or hands.
Damage to the blood vessels in the legs and feet resulting in limited blood supply, pain and sensation changes.
A pharmacist prepares and dispenses drugs and medicine. They can also give you advice about your medicines.
A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can give advice about exercise choices.
A podiatrist will advise you on how to keep your feet healthy and treat foot problems.
A psychiatrist is a medical specialist who can help people who have emotional and psychological problems.
A psychologist counsels people with emotional and psychological problems and can help you make lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking.
A social worker can provide counselling to individuals and families regarding personal and family problems.
Saturated fats are found in foods like processed and fatty meats, full fat milk products, butter, coconut and palm oils. It is recommended you limit saturated fat in your diet as it can increase LDL cholesterol levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
Trans fats are found in some processed biscuits and commercially-made bakery products. They act the same way as saturated fats in the body so it's recommended we minimise our intake of these fats.
The type of carbohydrate refers to the glycaemic index (GI) of the food. The glycaemic index (GI) is a way of describing how a carbohydrate food affects blood glucose levels.
A type of fat found in the blood that the body uses for fuel or stores away.
Food is broken down into glucose by your mouth, stomach and intestines.
When you have diabetes, your pancreas either cannot make insulin, or the insulin produced is not enough, does not work properly, or both.
Energy comes from the food we eat.
Your intestines help break food down into glucose. Glucose enters our bloodstream so it can be transported to the body's cells.
You need insulin to 'unlock' your body cells, allowing glucose into those cells so that it can be used for energy.