Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition where the body resists the normal effects of insulin and gradually becomes unable to produce enough of it. Type 2 diabetes can lead to other health problems that include:

  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • stroke
  • issues with vision
  • nerve problems.

The good news is that in up to 58% of cases, people who are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay its onset by adopting sustainable healthy habits. It’s not always easy changing your lifestyle, but setting and creating a plan for weekly health goals aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes can be helpful. 

In this article, we’ll explain how to do it.

Understanding diabetes and its risk factors

‘Diabetes’ is a term for a group of different conditions where there is too much glucose in the blood. The main three conditions are: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes (which occurs in some pregnancies).

When we eat, carbohydrate is broken down into glucose in the blood. In a person who does not have diabetes, their pancreas releases insulin, which transfers the glucose from their blood into the muscle cells to be used as energy. 

People living with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes, insulin is only produced in small amounts or does not work properly. This results in glucose building up in the bloodstream, which can eventually damage blood vessels and nerves.

Prediabetes is an associated condition where a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than recommended but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by between 10 and 20 times. However, as mentioned earlier, the onset of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed through the adoption of sustainable healthy habits.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not currently known however, there are known risk factors that increase the risk of developing the condition. Some of these are modifiable (meaning they can be changed) and others are non-modifiable (they cannot be changed). 

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • Having pre-diabetes.
  • Living in a larger body size.
  • Having an unhealthy waist measurement.
  • Not doing the recommended amount of physical activity.
  • Having high levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) and low levels of HDL-C (the ‘good’ cholesterol).
  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Smoking.

Non-modifiable risk factors include:

  • Having a close relative such as a parent or brother/sister with type 2 diabetes.
  • Having an ethnic background of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander, Asian (including Chinese and the Indian sub-continent), Middle Eastern or North African.
  • Age–although diabetes can develop at any age, the risk of pre-diabetes increases after age 35.
  • Having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
  • Having had gestational diabetes in pregnancy or giving birth to a big baby (more than 4.5kgs).


The power of goal-setting in diabetes prevention 

Integrating healthy habits into your life can be helped by setting goals. Goals give you a clear direction and measurable outcomes to achieve. They can also help you to stay motivated.

Goals relating to type 2 diabetes prevention could include: 

Making small, gradual changes in behaviour is often easier and more sustainable than attempting to make big changes all at once. For example, instead of trying to run 10km after many years of not being active, you could start by aiming to walk for 30 minutes most days of the week.  Or, instead of attempting to permanently cut out all junk food, you might plan to have your favourite ‘cheat’ meal once a week. 

Setting yourself health goals on a weekly basis can be helpful in making those small, incremental changes. Reviewing your weekly goals allows you to quickly identify and overcome barriers and celebrate your successes along the way. This approach gives you flexibility and adaptability.

Goal setting basics 

A simple and effective goal-setting technique is to use the SMART formula.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific—goals should be clear and well defined.
  • Measurable—they should include a way of tracking progress.
  • Achievable—goals that are realistic and reasonable help to ensure that you are not setting yourself up for failure.
  • Relevant—goals should be relevant to what you want to achieve. 
  • Time-bound—goals should have a clearly defined timeline. This can help to motivate individuals to take action.

A SMART goal related to diabetes prevention might be:

  • Specific: I will walk for 20 minutes every day.
  • Measurable: I will time my walks with the stopwatch on my phone.
  • Achievable: I currently walk for 15 minutes most days, so increasing this to 20 minutes is realistic.
  • Relevant: Regular physical activity can help to prevent type 2 diabetes, which is exactly what I want to do. Plus, I can manage this with my work and family commitments.
  • Time-bound: I will achieve my goal within the next two weeks.

Monitoring progress and adjusting goals 

As we have seen, one of the main benefits of setting weekly goals is that you can quickly see how you are tracking, which allows you to change your approach if necessary. Also, breaking down a long-term goal into smaller, weekly goals can make the achievement of your overall goal seem more manageable and less overwhelming.

If possible, have a variety of smaller goals that are relevant to your overall goal. This can help to prevent boredom. For example, you could have a range of diabetes prevention goals relating to physical activity, nutrition, stress management and sleep.

Long-term maintenance and accountability 

Long-term maintenance of healthy habits is crucial for type 2 diabetes prevention. Having support systems and ‘accountability partners’ (people who support another person to maintain progress on a goal) can play a significant role here. The benefits they bring include:

  • encouragement and motivation, which can be especially helpful during challenging times
  • accountability—having someone to answer to can make people more likely to stick to the process of achieving their health goals
  • shared learning and experience—support systems and/or accountability partners provide a way to share experiences and learn from others.


The Life! program is a highly effective support system in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

How the Life! program can help you 

Life! is a free healthy lifestyle program that helps you improve your healthy eating habits, increase your physical activity and manage stress. It will help you reduce your risk of developing stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Life! is run by experienced health professionals, including dietitians and exercise physiologists, who guide and support you to make healthy lifestyle changes. 

The program includes 7 sessions delivered over a 12-month period. You can choose from a group course or our telephone health coaching service. Learn more about the Life! program

You can check your eligibility for the Life! program by taking a quick online test here.


Principles for goal setting – Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care 

SMART goal framework – Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care 

Diabetes in Australia. – Diabetes Australia 

Prevention – Diabetes Australia  

Exercise & Diabetes – Diabetes Australia  

Blood pressure and diabetes – Diabetes Australia  

Diabetes – Nutrition Australia