Type 2 Diabetes is a complex medical condition that typically develops over a long period of time, and occurs when your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal (). To explain this simply, when we consume food (mainly carbohydrates), it travels to the stomach where it is broken down. From there, glucose (sugar) is released in our bloodstream, which then signals our pancreas to release a hormone called Insulin, to help move the sugar from our bloodstream into our cells (e.g. our muscles and liver) to be used for energy. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body can no longer produce enough insulin, or your body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin – known as insulin resistance. This means too much glucose stays in your bloodstream, rather than being used for energy by our body, which leads to the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes ().
Why do some people develop diabetes?
There are several risk factors that may increase the likelihood of a person developing type 2 diabetes. These can be divided into two main categories including:
1. Non-modifiable risk factors
This means they cannot be changed and refer to things such as:
- Age – your risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you age, particularly >40 years old
- Family history – If you have a close biological relative with diabetes, this means your risk is significantly increased.
- Race and ethnicity – Research has found that certain ethnicities carry a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. These include people who are of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander or Maori descent, as well as people who are from Asia, The Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe
- Gestational diabetes – Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future
- PCOS – women who have diagnosed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are at higher risk due to Insulin Resistance ()
2. Modifiable risk factors
This means they can be changed by making changes to your lifestyle and include things such as:Being overweight
- Fat distribution i.e. carrying more weight around your midsection
- An inactive lifestyle
- Blood lipid levels – specifically low HDL “helpful” cholesterol and high triglycerides increase your risk
- High blood pressure
- Smoking ()
What can you do to prevent and defeat diabetes?
The good news is that there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the modifiable risk factors and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Making small changes can have a big impact for diabetes prevention and the serious health complications that can arise in the future. It’s never too late to start!
Our top tips for diabetes prevention
1. Include more nutritious foods in your eating plan for prevention of type 2 diabetes
A great way to reduce your risk and defeat diabetes is eating a wide variety of nutritious foods across the 5 core food groups including:
Vegetables and legumes
Wholegrains – opt for low GI options e.g. oats, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal grain breads, brown rice, multigrain crackers etc
Lean proteins e.g. chicken breast, 5-star mince, eggs, tofu and tempeh
Reduced fat dairy products e.g. yoghurt, milk and cheese
This will ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need and help you to maintain a healthy weight, which is one of the best ways to prevent and defeat diabetes.
2. Include healthy fats in your diet and limit saturated and trans fats to defeat diabetes
Unsaturated fats – including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – are classified as “healthy fats”, as they promote heart health by decreasing cholesterol levels, and increasing HDL “helpful” cholesterol.
Foods that are a great source of healthy fats include:
On the other hand, saturated fats found mainly in processed and fatty meats, full fat dairy and discretionary foods like cakes, pastries, sweets have a negative impact on your cholesterol levels. Keep these foods to a minimum in your diet to help reduce your risk.
3. Get moving for prevention of type 2 diabetes
There are so many benefits of physical activity for our overall health, but when focusing on diabetes prevention, exercise can help to:
When looking to increase your physical activity, it’s important to engage in movement that you enjoy. Why? Because you’re more likely to stick to a routine and develop healthy habits in the long term this way. Movement can be anything from walking, swimming some laps at your local pool, enjoying golf with some friends, attending a weight-training glass at your gym – the list is endless.
4. Reduce alcohol consumption to defeat diabetes
Excess alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, as it can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin (). Also, alcoholic drinks can be high in kilojoules (calories), which can impact your weight. Given this, aim to reduce your alcohol consumption and opt for no more than 10 standard drinks per week as per the Australian Alcohol Guidelines. Remember – taking steps towards a healthier you doesn’t mean you have to give up alcohol entirely – it’s all about moderation!
5. Cease Smoking to defeat diabetes
Research has shown that people who smoke are 50% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to non smokers, or even higher if you’re a heavy smoker (). So if you’re serious about reducing risk, speak to your General Practitioner about steps you can take to quit smoking today.
6. Seek Support for prevention of type 2 diabetes
Making lifestyle changes to defeat diabetes can seem overwhelming at first, but you don’t have to do it alone!
At Diabetes Wellness Australia, we offer supportive programs for those who are looking to prevent and defeat diabetes which includes individualised, 1-on-1 sessions with an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Health Coach to help you make small, sustainable lifestyle changes. If you’re interested to gain insights into the experiences of our valued clients, we encourage you to read Diabetes Wellness Australia reviews.
To learn more about what our programs can offer you, book your free assessment to speak to one of our friendly staff today.