What is Diabetes?

Sep 29, 2021 1:44am

It’s likely you’ve heard of the condition diabetes mellitus (DM). It’s also likely you know someone with diabetes, as it is estimated that 1.2 million Australians live with the condition (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, self-reported data 2017-2018).

It’s important for everyone to exercise regularly and live a healthy lifestyle, but today we’re going to focus on why that is important specifically for those with diabetes, and explain how a physiotherapist has a key role in helping to manage the condition.


Diabetes, what is it exactly?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar, known as glucose. For your body to work properly, you need to maintain a healthy level of glucose in your blood. Your body has an organ called the pancreas, which releases a hormone called insulin to help regulate blood glucose. Diabetes causes the body to not produce enough insulin, or respond normally to insulin, which causes glucose levels to be abnormally high. High levels of glucose in your blood can cause damage to your heart, brain, kidney, eyes and feet. There is currently no cure for diabetes but there are ways of managing the condition through medication, diet and exercise.


There are three main types of diabetes:

Type 1:

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. If you have Type 1 diabetes it means your pancreas no longer produces the insulin you need. This means you need to regularly monitor your blood glucose levels and either inject insulin directly, or use an insulin pump, to keep insulin levels within a healthy range.

Type 2:

Type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin, or the insulin you are producing is not working effectively. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition. Over time you may need medication, and in some cases insulin, to manage blood glucose levels. However, with regular physical activity, a healthy eating plan and regular health checks, you can manage diabetes to live well.

Gestational diabetes:

Gestational diabetes may develop during pregnancy. It is diagnosed with a blood test and an oral glucose test between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise, but some women may require medication or insulin until the baby is born. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after birth, although it may increase the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.


What are the symptoms of Diabetes?

Diabetes can appear with a wide variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms include: 

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Decreased endurance during exercise

(This is a list of some common symptoms, but not all symptoms associated with diabetes. If you have any of these symptoms or are concerned you may have Diabetes, please seek appropriate medical advice)


Our role as Physiotherapists!

Research shows the benefits of exercise in preventing and treating diabetes. While there is currently no cure for diabetes, exercise can help to manage diabetes by:

  • Helping to control blood sugar levels
  • Lowering body fat
  • Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol

Exercise also helps to overcome disability associated with diabetes by preventing and treating neuromuscular complications like neuropathies, skin break down, foot ulcers, osteoarthritis, other joint pain and back pain. 

Moderate to high levels of physical activity are associated with lower morbidity and mortality in both men and women with diabetes. The current physical activity guidelines recommend adults to be active on most, preferably all days, with at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, and 2 resistance (strength) training sessions per week. However, in 2017-2018, it is estimated that only 15% of Australian adults are meeting these guidelines (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). How do you think you stack up?

If you're ready to increase your exercise, you can do our workouts by creating a free account for our online exercise program on our website.

The prevalence of Diabetes Mellitus is increasing in Australia and worldwide. Leading a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet is essential to the prevention of developing diabetes. But regardless of if you have diabetes or not, your physiotherapist is more than equipped to help you achieve that healthy and active lifestyle that can help to prevent many other conditions in your lifetime.
So… send us an email at [email protected]!