Can you prevent Type 2 diabetes?

a group of men play a pickup game of basketball in the park

If there were things you could do to prevent type 2 diabetes, would they be worth the effort?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” And here’s why.

Diabetes is a leading cause of death in the United States1.Over time, it can lead to complications such as heart disease and stroke, as well as vision loss, kidney failure, nerve damage, and the loss of limbs.2 It affects an estimated 30 million people in the U.S. and as many as 95 percent of those cases are likely type 2 diabetes.3

What is type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are dangerously high. It is a disorder of the metabolism, which is the way our bodies use food for energy.

Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose. It enters the bloodstream and travels to cells throughout the body where it is used for energy. A hormone called insulin must be present to allow glucose, or blood sugar, to enter the cells.

With type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.4

It starts with prediabetes

Before full-blown diabetes develops, most people go through a stage called prediabetes. This occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. In addition, they are at risk for heart disease and stroke.5

5 tips to help prevent type 2 diabetes

Changing your lifestyle can be a big step toward prevention. Making a few changes now may help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes down the road. This is especially important if you’re at increased risk of diabetes.6

  1. Get more physical activity. Exercise can help you lose weight and lower your blood sugar. It can also help improve your body’s response to insulin, helping keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Regular exercise may help control your diabetes, and including both aerobic exercise and resistance training in your exercise program will offer the greatest benefit.6 Aerobic training, such as jogging, swimming, or riding a bike, promotes the circulation of oxygen throughout your body. Aerobic exercises are associated with more rapid breathing and a faster heart rate. Resistance training works to increase muscle strength through repetitive exercises, most often with weights, weight machines or resistance bands.
  2. Eat plenty of fiber. A high-fiber diet can help you control blood sugar and lower your risk of heart disease. It helps you feel full, too, which can promote weight loss. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  3. Choose whole grains. Try to make them at least half of the grains you eat. Look for the word “whole” on the package when you buy bread, pasta, and cereal.
  4. Lose that extra weight. If you’re overweight, you may be able to prevent diabetes by weight loss. Participants in a recent study who lost a moderate amount of weight – just about seven percent of initial body weight – and who exercised regularly reduced their risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent!
  5. Fad diets aren’t the answer. Making healthy choices is. Think variety and portion control as part of your overall plan for eating healthy. Fad diets may help you lose weight at first, but you may be giving up important nutrients. Neither their effectiveness at preventing diabetes nor their long-term effects are known.

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