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How to Prevent Diabetes

Summary

What is type 2 diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels are too high. With type 2 diabetes, this happens because your body does not make enough insulin, or it does not use insulin well (this is called insulin resistance). If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you might be able to prevent or delay developing it.

Who is at risk for type 2 diabetes?

Many Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Your chances of getting it depend on a combination of risk factors such as your genes and lifestyle. The risk factors include

  • Having prediabetes, which means you have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes
  • Being overweight or having obesity
  • Being age 45 or older
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having a low level of HDL (good) cholesterol or a high level of triglycerides
  • A history of diabetes in pregnancy
  • Having given birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • A history of heart disease or stroke
  • Having depression
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Having acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition in which your skin becomes dark and thick, especially around your neck or armpits
  • Smoking

How can I prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes?

If you are at risk for diabetes, you may be able to prevent or delay getting it. Most of the things that you need to do involve having a healthier lifestyle. So if you make these changes, you will get other health benefits as well. You may lower your risk of other diseases, and you will probably feel better and have more energy. The changes are

  • Losing weight and keeping it off. Weight control is an important part of diabetes prevention. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 10 percent of your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose between 10 to 20 pounds. And once you lose the weight, it is important that you don't gain it back.
  • Following a healthy eating plan. It is important to reduce the amount of calories you eat and drink each day, so you can lose weight and keep it off. To do that, your diet should include smaller portions and less fat and sugar. You should also eat a variety of foods from each food group, including plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It's also a good idea to limit red meat, and avoid processed meats.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise has many health benefits, including helping you to lose weight and lower your blood sugar levels. These both lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your health care professional to figure out which types of exercise are best for you. You can start slowly and work up to your goal.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you already smoke, try to quit.
  • Talk to your health care provider to see whether there is anything else you can do to delay or to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you are at high risk, your provider may suggest that you take one of a few types of diabetes medicines.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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