Diabetes is a disease where your body cannot control its blood sugar levels properly – either because your body doesn’t make enough (or any) insulin, or because your cells have become resistant to insulin.

Insulin is a chemical produced in the pancreas. It helps your body process sugars.

  • If blood sugar levels aren’t kept under control, diabetes can be life-threatening.
  • Diabetes can lead to other health conditions, including kidney failure, eye disease, foot ulceration and a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Keeping your blood sugar at a safe level means you’re less likely to have other health problems.

There’s no cure for diabetes, but there are things you can do to stay well. Support from your friends, whānau and health care providers can help.

Heart and diabetes checks

Diabetes is our largest and fastest growing health issue we face in New Zealand. Diabetes is closely linked with heart disease (also known as cardiovascular disease or CVD), and together they are responsible for the deaths of more New Zealanders each year than cigarettes are. Many of these deaths are preventable.

The More Heart and Diabetes Checks Health Target has been established to help save these lives – aiming to have regular heart and diabetes checks for at least 90 percent of those at risk of developing these conditions. Find out more about heart and diabetes checks.

How common is diabetes?

There are over 240,000 people in New Zealand who have been diagnosed with diabetes (mostly type 2). It is thought there are another 100,000 people who have it but don’t know.

  • Diabetes is most common among Māori and Pacific Islanders. They’re three times as likely to get it as other New Zealanders.
  • South Asian people are also more likely to develop diabetes.
  • The number of people with both types of diabetes is rising – especially obesity-related type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when your body has stopped producing insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin to live.

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children.
  • Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when your cells have become insulin resistant or your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to keep you healthy.

  • Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults but it is becoming more common in children.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the only type of diabetes linked with obesity.

Diabetes in pregnancy

Pregnant women can also develop diabetes. This is known as gestational diabetes (or ‘diabetes in pregnancy’). It usually goes away when the baby is born.

Diabetes ​websites

Diabetes New Zealand
Support and information for people with diabetes.

Diabetes Youth New Zealand
Support for children with diabetes and their families.

Te Rōpū Mate Huka ō Aotearoa
The Māori Diabetes Collective raises awareness of diabetes within the Māori community.

Information on managing diabetes and the blood glucose meter changes.

Health Navigator
The Health Navigator NZ website helps you find reliable and trustworthy health information and self-help resources on diabetes.

Developed by the Starship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand, this website contains lots of information for children growing up with diabetes.

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