5 ways to prevent type 2 diabetes


3 minutes

24 June 2024

This article was originally published on but has since been revised with new information.

Did you know that diabetes prevention programs can be effective in preventing or delaying up to 58% of type 2 diabetes cases?1

As the fastest-growing chronic health condition in Australia, surpassing both heart disease and cancer,2 we spoke with Dr Andy Papa-Adams from HBF to get his top five tips for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Before we take a look at ways to prevent diabetes, it’s important we understand the fundamentals of the disease.

A chronic condition characterised by elevated levels of blood sugar, diabetes results from either insufficient production of insulin or the body's ineffective use of insulin, a natural hormone made in our pancreas.3

Over time, high blood glucose levels cause damage to the inside of blood vessels which can lead to heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, and problems with the kidneys, eyes, and feet.4

With more than 300 Australians developing diabetes every day, or one person every five minutes, it’s the seventh most common cause of death by disease in Australia.2

What causes diabetes?

The causes behind diabetes depend on the type. Type 1 diabetes results from an autoimmune response attacking insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, with genetics and environmental factors thought to play a role.3

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, develops gradually over time as the body's insulin loses its effectiveness in regulating blood sugar levels, eventually leading to diminished insulin production and effectiveness.3

Lifestyle risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:5

  • Being overweight, especially around the waist
  • Being inactive
  • Being a smoker
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Eating an unhealthy diet

What can I do to help prevent type 2 diabetes?

Dr Papa-Adams shares his top five tips: 

  1. Control your weight: Maintaining a healthy weight is the single most effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes seven-fold while being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely.6
  2. Healthy eating: Although there is no specific diabetes diet, you can reduce your risk by eating more fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains and eating less saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugary foods. If you’re looking for advice, consider visiting a dietitian who can create a meal plan that fits your health goals, food preferences, and lifestyle.
  3. Physical activity: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and additional muscle-strengthening exercise twice per week. Also, it’s good to avoid sitting for too long. Get up and move if you’ve been sitting for more than 30 minutes. If you haven't been active for a while, start slowly and build up gradually. For expert tips, check out our blog, How to create a new exercise habit.
  4. Stop smoking: Smokers are roughly 50% more likely to develop diabetes than non-smokers, with heavy smokers having an even higher risk. Speak to your GP if you need help to quit smoking. 
  5. Reduce alcohol consumption: All alcoholic drinks are high in kilojoules and can contribute to weight gain and increased blood pressure. If you choose to drink, do so only in moderation, limiting intake to 10 units per week with no more than four units on any one day.

Remember, even the smallest lifestyle adjustments can lead to significant improvements in overall health and diabetes risk reduction.

Already diagnosed? HBF is here to help.

Depending on your cover, HBF extras can pay benefits towards visits to the dentist, a dietitian, a podiatrist, an exercise physiologist, a physiotherapist or a psychologist.

HBF hospital cover may pay benefits for insulin pumps, as well as hospital treatments that may be required for diabetes (such as stabilisation of hypo- or hyperglycaemia and lumps and bumps from insulin injections).

Eligible HBF members may also have access to The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Program, a 12-week science-backed weight management program that can support those managing Type 2 Diabetes who are looking to loose weight*.

Consider a pharmacy Health Check

Health checks include a diabetes risk assessment to check your risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next five years.

Find out more


1 Diabetes Australia - Prevention

2 Diabetes Australia - Diabetes in Australia

3 Healthdirect - Diabetes

4 Better Health Channel - Diabetes: long-term effects

5 Better Health Channel - Diabetes type 2

6 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes


*HBF health support programs may be fully covered for members who hold an eligible level of HBF hospital cover and meet the program eligibility criteria. Other CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Program options are available if you have an eligible extras product. Annual limits and additional eligibility criteria may apply.