Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus in full, is a metabolic disorder characterised by an imbalance between levels of insulin, secreted by the pancreas, and blood sugars.

Insulin plays an important role in the body processing sugars from the blood stream. Thus, in people with diabetes insulin levels tend to be lower and blood sugars higher.

Diabetes is normally discussed with reference to two types: type 1 diabetes is most often acquired early in life and, because it is characterised in deficits producing insulin, typically requires treatment with insulin. Type 2 diabetes tends to develop later in life and is most often influenced by lifestyle behaviours. It is characterised by blood sugars rising rapidly after eating, meaning it may be managed by either insulin treatment or other medications.

Diabetes has many effects on the human body as a whole, and given the association of type 2 diabetes with poor diet and obesity, it can be difficult to determine what factors are diabetic-specific and what are a result of comorbidities (overlap with other conditions).

Nonetheless, diabetes has mechanisms linking it to cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and dementia, while it is associated with increased onset and reduced survival in several cancers. Diabetes is especially strongly linked to chronic kidney disease – diabetes is believed to cause kidney disease in around 30-40% of people with type 1 diabetes, and around 25% in type 2 diabetes.

For more scientific information on the effects of diabetes, the Diabetes section of the National Seniors Australia-commissioned Healthy Ageing: The State of the Evidence and Available Resources report can be obtained below:

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