Known as the silent killer, diabetes often goes undiagnosed. And according to Diabetes Australia, approximately 2 million Australians have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and are even starting to show some symptoms of the disease. Recent data shows that among 65 – 74 year-olds the risk is three times higher than for 45 – 54 year-olds, and 1.5 times higher than for 55 – 64 year olds. Widely recognised as the country’s fastest growing disease, diabetes can have a negative impact on quality of life as well as life expectancy. Fortunately, there are various lifestyle changes that can be made in order to prevent, or reduce your risk. With World Diabetes Day recently passed in November, we look at how to do so.
Before we go any further, it’s wise to understand the different types of diabetes. While in general, diabetes is the inability of the body to turn glucose into energy due to the lack of insulin, resulting in high glucose levels in the body, there are three different types of diabetes which we break down below:
- Type 1: Not linked to poor lifestyle choices, this type of diabetes activates a response whereby the immune system destroys any insulin the pancreas produces. Symptoms present themselves quickly and it affects about 10% of all diabetes cases.
- Type 2: Linked to genetic and lifestyle-related factors, type 2 diabetes is a more progressive form of the disease where the body increasingly becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and/or slowly stops producing insulin. It affects around 85 – 90% of all diabetes cases.
- Gestational: A Form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and can disappear after birth. Hormones produced during pregnancy can block a woman’s production of insulin, affecting 12 – 14% of all pregnant women. Chances of developing this type of diabetes are higher if it runs in the family, or if a woman is over the age of 40 or has a higher than normal weight.
Type 2 is our focus here, as it affects the majority of Australian cases with the risk higher for ageing Australians. Luckily, the risk of type 2 diabetes can be reduced with a number of lifestyle modifications. To avoid the unwelcome disease and all of its symptoms, including weight gain, lack of energy, headaches, dizziness, slow healing wounds, mood swings and more, the following lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk.
A well balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables and non-processed foods that are high in fibre is essential for anyone wanting to be healthy, but even more so for those at risk of diabetes. Eating foods that are high in essential vitamins and minerals and low in saturated and trans fats will provide you with a controlled blood pressure and decrease the amount of fat stored in your body. Both high blood pressure, and excess fat can increase your body’s resistance to insulin.
Regular exercise, even if it’s just a daily walk can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce blood glucose levels, reduce high blood pressure and even high cholesterol. All of these factors when at the correct levels will aid your body in the production of insulin and ensure high glucose levels do not become a common occurrence.
High levels of alcohol intake are known to lead to weight gain, and an increase in blood pressure. This doesn’t mean you have to give up drinking alcohol but rather that it should be drunk in moderation. You can still have your daily glass of wine or or weekly beer or two, but excessive alcohol intake should be a thing of the past. The Better Health Channel recommends two standard drinks a day for men and one for women.
As we age it’s vital to have regular check-ups with the doctor to ensure good health. Make sure you include blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol level checks as part of these appointments. You can even take an online risk assessment to find out whether or not you should see a registered medical practitioner about your potential risk.
Whether the risk runs in your family or not, type 2 diabetes can affect you due to a number of lifestyle choices. Luckily, there are a number of ways to reduce your risk, or even prevent yourself from getting diabetes all together. From reducing your intake of processed food, ensuring moderate exercise and limiting your alcohol intake, to regular medical check ups, you can ensure that this rapidly growing disease does not affect you.