A Look at New Zealand’s Big Killer

Children are the latest victims of the largely lifestyle-related disease, Type 2 diabetes.
A Look at New Zealand’s Big Killer
Charlotte Cuthbertson

Children are the latest victims of the largely lifestyle-related disease, Type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes New Zealand.

New estimates indicate 500 young people aged between 10 and 18 years have the disease that was, only a few years ago, virtually unknown in this age group.

“It used to be a disease that only affected adults over 45 years old, but not any more,” Mike Smith, president of Diabetes New Zealand said in a press release.

He said Diabetes Awareness Week, 18-24 November 2008, is a good time to think about how we can play a part in reducing the impact this life-threatening disease is having on our society.

“It’s our own inaction that is allowing Type 2 diabetes to become an epidemic.”

The disease can often be prevented through eating less and exercising more—making the epidemic even more tragic, Mr. Smith said. Excessive weight increases diabetes risk.

Type 2 diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure and amputation.

There are almost 180,000 New Zealanders diagnosed with all types of diabetes and 80,000 more have pre-diabetes. There are also 800,000 overweight or obese people in New Zealand who are at longer term risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is two to three times higher in individuals with a family-member with the disease. This is likely to be the result of a family culture of low exercise and poor diet. So Type 2 is very much a family affair, Mr. Smith said.

The emphasis in this year’s Diabetes Awareness Week is on young people and families. When diabetes strikes someone it means that their life has to change. Especially for those with Type 2, it will mean changes to their eating and exercise patterns and lifestyle that are very difficult to do, Mr. Smith said.

“No one likes to be the odd one out and that’s why making the necessary changes is so difficult. If the whole family can adopt healthy choices and practices, then they will be an enormous support to the person with diabetes.”