Diabetes: assess your risk

By guest blogger Dayna Jaeschke, APD, AN. Diabetes SA.

Approximately 1 million Australians have been diagnosed with diabetes and if the trend continues, there will be 3 million Australians diagnosed with diabetes by 2025. However, it has been estimated that for every 5 diagnosed cases of diabetes there are another 4 that are undiagnosed. Every year as part of National Diabetes Week (14th-20th July), Diabetes SA raises awareness about the condition, how to manage it and encourages people to assess their risk.


So what is diabetes?

After we eat a meal our bodies convert the carbohydrate within our food into glucose (or sugar) which our body uses for energy. It is important to understand that carbohydrates are the major source of energy for our brain and nervous system.  For our bodies to use the glucose as energy, the hormone insulin is needed. Insulin can be thought of as a key, opening up the cell doors so that glucose can get inside where is can be used as energy. For someone with type 1 diabetes, their body doesn’t produce any insulin and for someone with type 2 diabetes, their body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the insulin does not work effectively (this is often referred to as insulin resistance). This means that their blood glucose level stays high. There are complications associated with blood glucose levels staying above the target range. However, upon diagnosis there are a team of health professionals including doctors, diabetes educators and dietitians that can help people manage the condition.

More details about type 1 and type 2 diabetes includes:

Type 1 diabetes

  • Is an autoimmune disease where the cells of the pancreas which produce insulin are destroyed
  • Management requires insulin
  • Exact cause is unknown and cannot be prevented
  • Around 10% of Australians who have diabetes, have type 1 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes

  • Management techniques may include lifestyle modification (including healthy eating and physical activity), medication and insulin
  • Unmodifiable risk factors include: family history, ethnic background, previous heart attack or existing heart disease
  • Accounts for 85-90% of the population with diabetes

There is another type of diabetes that can occur during pregnancy. To find out more about gestational diabetes check out this link.


What factors increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

We know that there is nothing that can be done to prevent type 1 diabetes; however, there are modifiable risk factors which you can change to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Being physically active (aiming for least 30 minutes on most days of the week)
  • Keeping your weight in check. If you are overweight or obese weight loss can help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Not smoking
  • Eating a balanced diet

You can assess your risk of type 2 diabetes by completing this questionnaire.


Do you need a special diet when you have diabetes?

The same healthy eating principles outlined in the Australian Dietary Guidelines apply for people with diabetes as with the general population, so there is no need to make special meals or foods when trying to manage diabetes. There is a misunderstanding that people with diabetes cannot eat sugar. As part of an overall healthy diet, small portions of added sugar do not affect diabetes management negatively. However it is important to remember that often foods high in added sugar (e.g. soft drinks, lollies, cakes) generally do not provide any nutritional benefit and may also be high in fat and kilojoules which can contribute to weight gain if eaten regularly. They are best limited to special occasions.

As part of a healthy diet, aim for your meals to be:

  • Regular and spread evenly over the day (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Low in fat (especially saturated fat)
  • High in fibre. Sources of fibre include vegetables, fruit, wholegrain breads/cereals, beans and lentils)
  • Low in salt
  • Moderate serving sizes (particularly of carbohydrate based foods. Become familiar with carbohydrate based foods)


Looking for a recipe for dinner tonight? Why don’t you try our delicious Quick Chilli Beans and Chicken recipe that the whole family can enjoy?


Quick Chilli Beans and Chicken (serves 2)


1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 Tbsp water

1 medium red capsicum, chopped

400 g can diced tomatoes (salt reduced)

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

2 tsp chilli powder

200 g lean chicken mince

275 g can red kidney beans, drained

1/3 cup canned sweetcorn, rinsed and drained

1 tbs fresh basil, chopped

2 tsp corn flour, dissolved in 2 tsp water



  1. Sauté onion and garlic in water until soft
  2. Add remaining ingredients, except for corn flour mixture and stir. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in corn flour mixture continuously until well combined and sauce begins to thicken.
  4. Serve.


Nutrition Information (per serve; approx 500 g)

1810kJ/ 430 cal

CHO 44g

Fat 10g

Saturated fat 3.0g

Fibre 15.5g

Sodium 740mg


This year Diabetes SA has a special focus on Diabetes and Emotional Well-being. For more information about what diabetes is and what Diabetes SA is doing as part of National Diabetes Week, please go to our website www.diabetessa.com.au or call 1300 136 588.

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