Diabetes: change now or join the limb waiting list

NEARLY five people are diagnosed with diabetes each week in the south-west as health groups plead with the public to switch to a healthy lifestyle. 

Figures released by South West Healthcare (SWH) show 237 new cases of all diabetes types were diagnosed last year — but it is the avoidable type two diabetes which dominates the numbers. 

In 2012 SWH saw 768 people with type two but the figure has since crept up to 880. 

“Despite everything, we’re still getting new clients all the time,” SWH diabetes educator Maree Boyle said. 

“Our clients are increasing, it’s still trending upwards.” 

At least 1617 people in the Warrnambool area have diabetes followed by Corangamite Shire at 943 and Moyne Shire at 751. 

Between 2001 and 2011 the number of people with the condition in Warrnambool grew by a staggering 126 per cent. Poor lifestyle and diet has led to a steep rise in type two diabetes which is harder to manage in older patients.

“We’re seeing an ageing population but there’s also a lot of comorbidities (multiple illnesses) — we’re finding a lot more people with chronic illnesses are getting type two diabetes,” Ms Boyle said. 

But not all diabetes sufferers are registered on the national database used by SWH, meaning the true number could be higher. 

Farmers and rural residents are also over-represented in the figures, Ms Boyle said. 

“They’re probably a big proportion and if they’re not farmers, they’re ex-farmers,” she said 

People aged between 30 and 60 are most commonly diagnosed with type two diabetes. 

Those reaching the worst stages of diabetes can end up in Richard Ziegeler’s office. 

The senior prosthetic limb-maker says up to 85 per cent of his clients are diabetes sufferers. 

“That’s fairly general with the entire amputee population since the Second World War,” Mr Ziegeler said. 

“Below-knee replacements are by far the most common. The circulatory problems that come with diabetes causes ulcers on the periphery of the body. 

“It’s not uncommon for people to carry unhealing wounds for years before they get amputated.” 

Improvements in diabetes treatment mean the rate of new prosthetics hasn’t soared with the condition. 

Lifestyle change remains the best prevention against the diagnosis. 

“That’s where you have to target with prevention. Your genetics you can’t change but you can certainly change your eating and how active you are,” Ms Boyle said. 

“The most common thing I’m hearing from clients is that they’re too busy or there are other health issues that are restricting them from maintaining activity or exercise. 

“I often hear women saying they’re too busy with the kids.” 

Ms Boyle said the local data reflected a national increase, also due in part to more regular testing for people in their 30s. 

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