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How to talk to someone about diabetes

Blog post | 12 Jul 2019

One person is diagnosed with diabetes every 5 minutes in Australia — which makes the condition one of the biggest challenges the healthcare system faces today.

However, it is possible to delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes by knowing your risk and tweaking your lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and quitting smoking will all help.

But if you worry that a family member or friend is at risk of developing diabetes, how do you bring it up? How do you convince a loved one — who might prefer Netflix to netball or cigarettes to cycling — to see a doctor about diabetes?

Know the risk factors

Around 2 million Australians are at a high risk of type 2 diabetes. While there's no single cause of the condition, there are well-established risk factors.

A person is at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they:

  • have a family history of diabetes
  • are older (over 55 years of age)
  • are over 45 and are overweight
  • are over 45 and have high blood pressure
  • are over 35 and from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • are over 35 and from a Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background
  • are a woman who has given birth to a child over 4.5kg or who has had gestational diabetes when pregnant or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Are you at risk?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes or kidney disease using our Risk Checker.

There's not much you can do about your family history, but you will almost certainly decrease your risk of diabetes by doing more exercise and physical activity, and by improving your diet.

Have a heart-to-heart talk

Diabetes Australia offers the following tips for talking to a loved one about diabetes.

  1. Be direct.
  2. Mention the risk of heart disease. People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease.
  3. Share the good news: the sooner they know about their increased risk of diabetes, the sooner they can take steps to reduce their risk.
  4. Encourage the person to talk to their GP about their risk and what they can do to reduce it.
  5. Be open. Discuss your own fears, worries and needs. Remind your loved one that you want them to be around for a long time.
  6. If you're not comfortable having the discussion, that's OK. Suggest your loved one visits for advice.

It's not always an easy conversation to have, but it might just change a person's life.

Where to get more information

  • Talk to your doctor.

  • Diagnosed with diabetes? Call the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) helpline on 1800 637 700 for health advice, to find support and services, and to get help with NDSS products.

  • You can also call the healthdirect helpline, 24 hours a day, on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) to speak with a health professional.

  • National Diabetes Week 2019 is July 14-20. Take the opportunity to learn more about diabetes, know your risk, and help friends and family members who may be at risk.

  • Visit Diabetes Australia for more information about the disease.

  • Go to Know Pathology for helpful, plain-English information about diabetes tests.

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