National Diabetes Week

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by Shania Khialani

Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions in Australia and across the globe.  In Australia, 280 Australians develop diabetes every day, which is one person every five minutes. National Diabetes Week in Australia is held from 8th to 14th of July this year and aims to raise awareness about diabetes.

This year we focus on Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (sometimes referred to as GDM), a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia. According to Diabetes Australia, women from an Indian background are at an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes. Between 12% and 14% of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes and this occurs around the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy.

In light of National Diabetes Week, we have asked two women specializing in diabetes management to share a few thoughts in raising awareness about this serious condition. 

Dr Kavita Kumareswaran (Endocrinologist/ Diabetes Specialist)

What is gestational diabetes in a nutshell –

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy when your body cannot cope with the extra demand for insulin, resulting in high glucose levels. Gestational diabetes is managed by checking blood glucose using a monitor at home 4 times daily, eating healthily and doing some exercise such as walking. Some women will require medications which may include metformin and/or insulin injections.

If gestational diabetes is not treated, it may result in problems such as a large baby with possible complications at delivery and need for neonatal care, miscarriage and stillbirth.

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed using an oral glucose tolerance test, usually done between 24-28 weeks pregnancy. This involves fasting for 8 hours overnight and attending a pathology service the next morning. You will have 3 blood tests over a 2-hour period and be given a glucose drink after the first test. 

Am I at an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes?

Women of Asian background are at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.

If you also have other risk factors such as a family history of diabetes, are overweight (in particular, have a greater amount of fat around the waist and hip area), or are of older age, it is important that you are tested for gestational diabetes earlier than 24 weeks pregnancy.

Dr Kavita Kumareswaran MBChB FRACP PhD (Cambridge)

Consultant Endocrinologist

Dr Kavita Kumareswaran undertook her specialist physician training in New Zealand and completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge in the UK. She practices as an Endocrinologist at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Prahran and Cabrini Hospital Malvern. She has a special interest in technology related to diabetes

Shania Khialani (Dietitian/ Diabetes Educator)

What does managing gestational diabetes involve?

There are three fundamental components in effectively managing gestational diabetes,

  • Monitoring blood glucose levels
  • Adopting a healthy eating pattern
  • Physical Activity

Gestational diabetes can often be managed with healthy eating and regular exercise but approximately 10-20% of women will need insulin.

Monitoring blood glucose levels while pregnant

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood glucose levels to ensure that they are within the target range. Your Credentialed Diabetes Educator can show you how to check your blood glucose levels and help you understand your blood glucose patterns.

Eating well with gestational diabetes

It is recommended to eat well with gestational diabetes to manage blood glucose levels within the recommended range, provide adequate nutrition for you and your baby as well as achieve target weight changes during your pregnancy. Healthy eating with gestational diabetes involves eating nutrient dense food from a variety of food groups in portion control to meet the nutritional requirements in pregnancy.  If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is advisable to visit your Accredited Practicing Dietitian to work out a meal plan that is suitable for you.

What can be done to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in the future?

Maintaining or achieve a healthy weight is vital in reducing the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes as studies have shown that even as little as 5-10% weight loss (if you are overweight) can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Avoid crash diets and work on achieving a healthy weight through long term lifestyle changes.

Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute also runs the ‘WAG program’ that is designed specifically for women with a history of gestational diabetes. ‘WAG’ stands for  ‘Women After Gestational diabetes’ and works on discussing practical nutrition information and strategies for preparing healthy meals for busy mothers.

Shania Khialani APD, AN, CDE

Accredited Practicing Dietitian/ Credentialed Diabetes Educator

Shania is a dietitian working with Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Prahran and Aurrum Aged Care Facilities. She is also the senior dietitian with Medi7 Medical Centres.

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