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How can older Australians prevent type 2 diabetes?

When it comes to diabetes, prevention can help a population, but remission is only possible for people on a case-by-case basis.

Image via Shutterstock contributor Robert Kneschke

Image via Shutterstock contributor Robert Kneschke

When it comes to diabetes, prevention can help a population, but remission is only possible for people on a case-by-case basis.

In 2020/21, the number of Australians were living with diabetes was 1 in 20 (5.3%), but for the older population of Australia, the rate was roughly 4 times higher (19.2%). For those over 75 years old, nearly 1 in 5 were diagnosed with the condition.

The most common type, as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, was type 2 (85.5%), which remains the only type that can be prevented in up to 58% of cases.

Although there are strong genetic factors that may exacerbate the onset of type 2 diabetes, such as a genetic history of the condition, changes in lifestyle and behaviour can help to reduce the risk.

Prevention is vital for older Australians, as type 2 diabetes is linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, which are both prevalent in ageing populations. As such, behavioural changes can be a safeguard against many physical and neurological conditions which may require care and assistance.

For those with ageing relatives or those that simply wish to stay in control of their own lives and make the most of their golden years, this article covers some of the ways in which we can help ourselves to live longer and healthier. 


What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes develops slowly, as the pancreas fails to deliver insulin to manage blood glucose levels properly. The pancreas tries to develop enough insulin to keep a natural balance in the human body, but much like someone working for an entire week without sleep and without a break, it will fail to function normally over time. Through a balanced diet and exercise, you can give your working pancreas a break.

Due to the gradual development of the underlying condition, along with the rate at which people living with the condition may begin to experience complications, such as impaired vision and lethargy, symptoms can often be mistaken for signs of ageing.

Those living with, or developing, type 2 diabetes are likely to experience symptoms after they turn 30, with the condition previously considered ‘adult-onset diabetes.’

However, the ‘adult-onset’ descriptor is now seen to be outdated, as experts in the healthcare industry have noted alarming trends in childhood obesity and youth diagnoses.


What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

For a comprehensive overview of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, including symptoms of the condition, please refer to the Aged Care Guide article: Understanding diabetes and its symptoms.


  • Are you often feeling tired and without the energy to enjoy your day?
  • Do relatives or friends comment on your mood? Do you experience episodes of depression or feel annoyed?
  • Do you experience a cramping sensation in your legs, blurred vision or chronic headaches?
  • Do you often feel thirsty or find yourself needing to use the bathroom more often in social situations?
  • Have you gained more weight in recent months than you have in the past?
  • If you hurt yourself, does it take longer for a wound to heal?


If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above questions, you may need to consult a general practitioner (GP) to test your blood glucose levels.

The HbA1c test for Glycosylated Haemoglobin in your system can also identify whether you are managing diabetes effectively.


Prevention of type 2 diabetes

Although dietary choices are often cited as a leading contributor to diabetes, pre-diabetes and co-morbidities such as obesity and cardiovascular health, older Australians may feel unable to eat healthier food.

However, there other lifestyle factors can have a significant impact on the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes or the uncertainty of remission whilst managing the condition.

Quit Smoking

Cigarette smoking, along with the established risk of lung cancer, is strongly associated with the development of type 2 diabetes. Research shows that active smoking increases central adiposity and insulin resistance, as reported by Diabetes Australia.

In 2014, the U.S Surgeon General’s report concluded that smokers were 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their non-smoking counterparts.

Additionally, inhaling cigarette smoke can lead to chronic inflammation which puts diagnosed type 2 diabetics at risk of macrovascular and microvascular complications.

For information, assistance and resources that will help you quit smoking once and for all, please visit


Stay Hydrated

Excessive urination is a symptom of diabetes, but it’s one which requires maintenance even prior to other symptoms or complications which may be indicative of pre-diabetes or type 2.

As your kidneys process the fluids that you consume prior to using the bathroom, they require more water afterwards, in order to avoid dehydration.

Dehydration can cause blood glucose levels to fluctuate and can lead to diabetic shock in those living with the condition.

In preventing diabetes, your body needs to make sure that one of your organs isn’t working too hard and will tire itself out too soon.


Stay Active

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 27% of Australians aged 18–64 did not reach the recommended target of 150 minutes of exercise per week, with only half of those over the age of 65 meeting the 30 minute a day requirement, for five or more days that week.

In addition to dietary restrictions, exercise can offset weight gain and when done carefully with the advice of your GP, can boost morale and reduce the risk of co-morbid conditions that are associated with diabetes.

A Sheffield Hallam University study found that in a sample of older Australians without diabetes, that water exercises were effective at improving the health and wellbeing of cardiovascular 


It’s never too late to drink water, find comfortable ways to stay active at every age and make your family proud by giving up your bad habits.


If you are after mobility assistance, home care assistance or community guidance, please visit the Aged Care ‘Home Care Package’ article or call 1300 404 547 to enquire.

For information on preventing type 2 diabetes or managing your diabetes diagnosis, please visit Diabetes Australia and the Australian Government’s National Diabetes Services Scheme.


Does someone that you know live with type 2 diabetes? Do you?
We’d like to know!


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