4364.0.55.005 - Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12  
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Contents >> Diabetes


Diabetes is a chronic condition where insulin, a hormone that controls blood glucose levels, is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body.1 If left undiagnosed or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, limb amputations or blindness. In 2011, diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death in Australia.2

The National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) provides an objective measurement of the number of people with diabetes in Australia. It included two tests to measure diabetes: a fasting plasma glucose test and a glycated haemoglobin test (commonly referred to as HbA1c).

Fasting plasma glucose measures the level of sugar in the person's blood at the time of testing. Participants were required to fast for 8 hours prior to the test in order to get an accurate reading. HbA1c, on the other hand, measures what the person's average blood glucose level has been in the previous three months. Participants were not required to fast for this test. A set of cut-offs are used for each test to determine whether a person has diabetes or is at high risk of diabetes. The cut-offs used in the NHMS are shown below.

Cut-offs for Diabetes in the NHMS

Fasting plasma glucose
HbA1c (%)(b)

Has diabetes7.06.5
At high risk of diabetes6.1 to <7.06.0 to <6.5
No diabetes<6.1<6.0

(a) Based on World Health Organization cut-offs for fasting plasma glucose.3
(b) An HbA1c level of greater than or equal to 6.5% is the WHO recommended cut-off point for diabetes.4


1 Diabetes Australia, Sept 2011, What is Diabetes?, <http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/en/Understanding-Diabetes/What-is-Diabetes/>, Last accessed 02/07/2013.
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Mar 2013, Causes of Death Australia, ABS cat. no. 3303.0, <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3303.0Chapter42011>, Last accessed 02/07/2013.
3 World Health Organization 2006, Definition and diagnosis of diabetes mellitus and intermediate hyperglycemia, <http://www.who.int/diabetes/publications/Definition%20and%20diagnosis%20of%20diabetes_new.pdf>, Last accessed 16/07/2013.
4 World Health Organization 2011, Use of Glycated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) in the Diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus, <http://www.who.int/diabetes/publications/report-hba1c_2011.pdf>, Last accessed 16/07/2013.

This section contains the following subsection :
      Measuring diabetes - definitions
      Diabetes prevalence
      Diabetes management

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