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Healthy lifestyle best defence

Healthy lifestyle best defence against Type 2 Diabetes

NOW is the time to act on promises to eat smarter and get more physical with the launch today of Diabetes Awareness Week, says Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Sandy Dawson.

"This week is an opportunity to remind people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes to take action. The disease has reached epidemic proportions in New Zealand but it is mostly preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle," said Dr Dawson, Chief Clinical Advisor.

The Ministry of Health fully supports Diabetes Awareness Week - which runs until November 25 - and also endorses Diabetes New Zealand's focus on preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

"Type 2 diabetes accounts for almost 90% of diabetes cases and it's increasing fast," said Dr Dawson. "Those at risk can reduce their chances of developing this disease by exercising more regularly and making healthier food choices. That's the message Diabetes New Zealand will be promoting this week."

Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly recognised now in children, said Dr Dawson. "In children, one of the biggest causes of weight gain comes from drinking soft drinks. A 1.5 litre bottle of soft drink may include about 19 teaspoons of sugar.

"We must encourage our children and grandchildren to do more physical activity, watch less television, eat more fruit and vegetables and cut right back on sugary drinks."

The Ministry has begun working with schools and the Ministry of Education on ways to encourage healthier eating and more physical activity among school children.

Dr Dawson said that in New Zealand, as in other developed countries, half of all people with type 2 diabetes do not even know it. There are an estimated 105,000 people with known diabetes in New Zealand, and about 210,000 people overall with diabetes.

Earlier this year, Ministry of Health forecasts estimated about 5000 adults were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1996, and that this may rise to 11,000 in 2011.

Diabetes is one of the Government's top health priorities. Of the many nationwide initiatives underway to address diabetes, the Ministry has developed a diabetes toolkit which provides information and resources to assist DHBs in reducing the incidence and impact of diabetes in their communities.

"I'm now confident that many primary care organisations in New Zealand, which offer free annual diabetes checks, are delivering world class support for people with diabetes. It's very impressive," said Dr Dawson.

The Ministry and Health Research Council have set up a Diabetes Research Strategy and $1.5 million has been committed over three years to fund practical research to develop and test diabetes prevention in New Zealand.

Dr Dawson said that New Zealand has great healthcare providers in the community and hospitals but these people will not be able to reduce the increasing impact of type 2 diabetes by themselves.

"We need healthcare that people can trust and can afford to use if they develop diabetes, and we also need communities that work together to provide the environment for kids and adults to lead healthy lifestyles," he said.

The Government's draft strategy Health Eating: Healthy Action addresses health consequences of obesity, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity with one aim being to reduce type 2 diabetes.

Its key population messages from analysis of the current situation for nutrition, physical activity and obesity are:

* Eat a variety of nutritious foods * Eat less fatty, salty and sugary foods * Eat more vegetables and fruit * Fully-breastfeed infants for at least six months * Be active every day for at least 30 minutes in as many ways as possible * Add some vigorous exercise for extra benefit and fitness * Attain and maintain a healthy weight throughout life * Promote and foster the development of environments that support healthy lifestyles

However, while individuals need to change their own behaviour, it is clear that the wider physical, social and cultural environment has a major influence on that type and amounts of food and drinks we consume, and how active we are.

Commitment and change is required in areas such as transport, local government, the food industry, schools and the workplace so that a healthy and more active lifestyle is achievable for everyone.

Dr Dawson said New Zealand Europeans aged over 40, and Maori, Pacific Island and Asian peoples aged over 30 who have a strong family history of type 2 diabetes or are overweight, should talk to their health professionals.

Europeans who show no risk factors should still see their health professionals from age 50 and over, and Maori, Pacific Island and Asian peoples from age 40 and over.

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