- Retinopathy – a disease of the small blood vessels in the eye, affecting vision in 6.2% – 7.6% of people at the time of their diabetes diagnosis
- Peripheral neuropathy – damage to the peripheral nerves in the hands and feet – 7.1%
- Peripheral vascular disease – a circulation disorder causing the blockage and narrowing of blood vessels – 6.9%
- Microalbuminuria – high levels of albumin in the urine which indicates vascular dysfunction and points to potential kidney and heart disease – 10.6%
- Macroalbuminuria – also a marker for renal disease and heart problems – 2.0%
- Myocardial infarction – a heart attack meaning permanent damage to the heart muscle – 13.3%
- Ischemic heart disease – heart disease resulting from narrowed heart arteries – 39.5%
- Peripheral arterial disease – reduced blood flow to the limbs – 10.6%
These statistics tell us that by the time someone meets the clinical criteria to be diagnosed with diabetes, the damage to their body from having elevated blood sugar levels has already been happening for some time, usually many years. This unique window of time is called pre-diabetes, and by having a screening to see if you are in this phase, you can leverage this time to take back control of your health by making informed changes. If you don’t have all the funds available to see your GP for the screening, don’t worry – you can still have a screening done.
Pre-Diabetes: Your Unique Window To Better Health
Pre-diabetes is a term given for a stage where your blood sugar levels are above normal, but below the threshold to be diagnosed with type two diabetes. The elevated blood sugar levels indicate that your body is struggling to use the naturally-occurring hormone insulin in your body to control your blood sugar levels in full, leaving behind more sugar than it should. Even in small amounts, over time, elevated blood sugars can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves, triggering a cascade of systemic and potentially serious problems. Simply put: pre-diabetes is a big alarm bell in your body that you need to act fast to get your blood sugar under control and prevent damage.
Unfortunately, most people with pre-diabetes don’t know that they have it because the effects are often silent, and for most aren’t severe enough to land you in hospital or urgently at the doctors – yet. Approximately 20% of New Zealanders are estimated to have pre-diabetes, and of those that have it, 84% don’t know they have it according to the Centre for Disease Control. If you do get signs of prediabetes, you may experience:
- Extreme thirst
- Using the restroom to pass urine often
- Dry, flaky skin
- Regularly feeling hungry
- Periods of blurred vision
- Slow healing when you have cuts or wounds
Early Detection Is Key
The prediabetes window presents a fantastic opportunity to prevent diabetes by alerting you to elevated blood sugar levels before they reach a dangerous level and starts impacting your vessels and your health. Remember that while some people carry a greater risk of developing diabetes due to factors like weight, family history, or their ethnic background, no one is immune to diabetes. If you’re concerned, have risk factors or are displaying symptoms, it’s important to request a blood sugar screening with your GP – and ideally this screening should be done every year as part of your annual health check.
Once you know your diabetes status, you can take the right steps to look after and maintain your health. The lifestyle changes made after receiving a prediabetes diagnosis may only need to be small, but they can go a long way in either preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes for as long as possible. For some, it may include greater nutritional variation, more exercise or reducing their weight. Others may be better suited to metformin or other medications that help the body use insulin more efficiently. Either way, you’ll be well equipped with tools and information on how to best help you in the prediabetes stage and the steps to take to help you best manage your wellbeing going forward.
Removing The Cost Barrier To Early Diabetes Detection
While it’s easy to recommend an annual health screening, financial constraints makes this unviable for many New Zealanders, with 39% being shown to avoid visiting their GP when they have a genuine medical need due to the upfront appointment fees.
Given the significant benefits of early diabetes detection on your lifelong health, as well as the benefits of being able to access your GP when you need to and not when it’s too late, a new Buy Now Pay Later service for health has been made available in New Zealand. It’s called HealthNow, and their goal is to make healthcare more accessible to anyone that needs it without further financially disadvantaging communities by charging consumers any fees or interest.
Using this service, families are now accessing diabetes screenings and paying their standard GP fees over a maximum of six weeks, split into multiple smaller payments. HealthNow also meets a higher level of compliance to ensure that it operates with social responsibility, being the only health-focused Buy Now Pay Later service in the country.
You can start using HealthNow today by downloading the app. You can also check out HealthNow’s full benefits and features, including a health wallet to store funds set aside for health services that can be contributed to by others including your employer.