November 14 was World Diabetes Day, an international day to raise awareness of diabetes.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 415 million adults are living with diabetes. That means that if diabetes were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. In Australia, 1.7 million people have diabetes and 280 new cases are diagnosed every day. Although new cases are diagnosed every day, worldwide, one in every two adults with diabetes is undiagnosed. Diagnosis is so important for early detection to improve management and prevent complications of diabetes.
Are you concerned about developing type 2 diabetes? By screening for diabetes, you can ensure you catch rising blood glucose levels before a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is made. Up to 70% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making diet and lifestyle changes.
Tried and true approaches to the prevention of diabetes include losing weight if you are overweight, increasing physical activity, eating a healthy, balanced diet and quit smoking if you are a smoker.
But what are some additional, non-traditional things that you can do to help prevent diabetes or better manage your diabetes?
Go nuts for nuts
Great news if you’re a nut lover. Eating 30g of nuts on most days of the week can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 30%. The healthy fats found in nuts may help improve insulin sensitivity (insulin is the hormone which helps lower blood glucose levels). If you have type 2 diabetes, eating nuts with a meal may help slow digestion which prevents spikes in blood glucose after a meal.
So which type of nuts should you eat? All nuts are packed full of nutrition, including fibre, healthy fats, protein, vitamin E and selenium, but choosing unsalted, plain or dry roasted nuts is best. A 30g serve is roughly a handful. You can top your morning multigrain toast with chunky nut butter (like peanut or cashew butter), throw walnuts into your salad at lunch, nibble on a handful of raw almonds as an afternoon snack, or make a homemade pesto using walnuts or cashews and fresh herbs and top your veggie pasta with pesto for dinner. For other exciting ideas for how to add nuts to your diet, book in with one of our dietitians.
Mindfulness, or the practice of bringing awareness to the present moment, has been used as an effective strategy for weight management and may now also be beneficial for the prevention of diabetes. A 2016 study in the journal Obesity found that obese participants who were taught mindfulness had lower fasting glucose levels than those not taught mindfulness. That means that mindfulness may be a useful strategy in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
How can you practice mindfulness? Start by bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings as you are eating. Rather than eating mindlessly while in front of the computer or television, tune into your own experience of eating. Take note of the taste, textures, sight and smells of your food. Measure your feelings of hunger at the start of eating and be aware of how every bite brings you closer to feeling satisfied or full. Mindfulness takes practice, and meeting with a dietitian can be quite helpful in learning how to use mindfulness strategies with your eating.
Take a walking break
There is a strong link between sedentary behaviour and type 2 diabetes. But before you begin celebrating because you go to the gym five days a week, make sure you don’t fall into the ‘Active Couch Potato’ category. Even physically active people, or those meeting the recommended 150 minutes per week of physical activity, can be classed as participating in sedentary behaviour. The active couch potato meets the activity guidelines but otherwise spends long stretches of time sitting, for example an office worker who sits for eight hours each work day but exercises after work five days a week. It is those long stretches of sitting that raise your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Why is sitting so bad? After long periods of sitting, muscles begin to burn fewer calories, blood flow is decreased throughout the body and to the brain, blood pressure begins to rise, ultimately increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, blood glucose and insulin levels spike, which taxes the pancreas and may over the long term, damage cells, tissues and organs.
If you’re an office worker who sits all day, what can you do? It is the long stretches of sitting that are particularly damaging. So take a short, five minute break from sitting every thirty minutes. This five minute walking break has been shown to improve glycemic control, blood glucose levels after a meal and insulin response, particularly in those at risk of type 2 diabetes. Set a reminder on your computer to stand up every 30 minutes. Walk to a colleague’s desk rather than send an email. When you begin to feel fatigued or peckish, take that as a good sign that you may need to stand up and move.
For other, out of the box ideas on how to prevent or better manage your diabetes, book in with one of our dietitians or our diabetes educator, Kate.
And in ode to World Diabetes Day remember to get screened by making an appointment with your GP.
 Diabetes Australia, 2015, accessed 1/11/2016 https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/diabetes-in-australia
 International Diabetes Federation, accessed 7/11/2016 from http://www.idf.org/wdd-index/toolkit/EN/IDF_WDD_interactive_toolkit_static_EN.pdf
 Jiang R, et al. Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002.
 Can mindful eating help lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Obesity Society, 2016, access 7/11/2016 from http://www.obesity.org/news/press-releases/can-mindful-eating-help-lower-risk-of-type-2-diabetes-and-cardiovascular-disease
,7 Dempsey, P.C., 2016. Standing up to type 2 diabetes in a sitting-centric world, Australian Diabetes Educator, volume 19(3)pp 34-38.