Healthy habits to prevent type 2 diabetes

A staggering number of Aussies develop type 2 diabetes every day – but a handful of simple lifestyle changes can help significantly reduce your risk.

About 280 Australians develop diabetes every day – that’s one person every five minutes.

And most – about 85 per cent – people living with diabetes are living with type 2, according to Diabetes Australia.

While genetics and family history increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, some lifestyle factors also have an impact – and those are things you can have some control over.

Research suggests type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in up to 58 per cent of people by being within a healthy weight range, staying physically active and eating a healthy diet.

These expert tips can help you lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

Focus on fresh fruit and vegies

Australians don’t eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits – but they’re essential to maintain a healthy weight and should be a daily part of your diet to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

“Cook fresh homemade meals using fresh produce and avoid processed foods that have added fat, sugar and salt,” says Diabetes Australian chief executive Greg Johnson.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines are a good starting point to improve your eating plan.

Don’t super-size your portions

“Many restaurants have very large servings – a piece of cake in a café today is two or three times bigger than it was 20 years ago.

So split portions and share them, or ask for a small serve,” says Prof Johnson.

Avoid a late dinner

US research says that eating a late dinner can contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar, which both increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Eating late reduces how much fat the body burns by up to 10 per cent and blood sugar levels can be about 18 per cent higher than when eating an early dinner. So aim to eat dinner by about 6pm.

Sleep well

“We don’t sleep well any more and disturbed sleep, working shifts or working at night have been associated with poor metabolic health – perhaps due to an unhealthier lifestyle and habits like snacking, eating unhealthier foods and smoking,” says Baker Institute clinical diabetes director Neale Cohen.

Sleep apnoea is also linked to type 2 diabetes so see your GP if your sleep is disturbed on a regular basis.

Don’t sit still

If your work or study involves sitting at a desk, stand up and move around every half hour.

Do a short lap of the office or your home, or do some half-squats or calf raises and use an app on your phone to remind you to move. Interrupting sitting helps improve blood sugar control.

“A lot of us have office jobs and we don’t use the big core muscles that soak up sugar,” says Associate Prof Cohen.

Get checked

Early detection of type 2 diabetes is important in managing its effects.

It is estimated that about 500,000 Australians do not realise they are living with type 2 diabetes.

Check your risk with the diabetes risk calculator.

July 12 to 18 is National Diabetes Week.

Written by Sarah Marinos.