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If type 2 diabetes were an infectious disease, public health officials would say that we are in the midst of an epidemic.

If type 2 diabetes were an infectious disease (passed from one person to another) public health officials would say that we are in the midst of an epidemic. This difficult disease is affecting an increasing number of adults and, with rising rates of childhood obesity, it has become more common in young people.

The good news is that prediabetes and type 2 diabetes can be prevented. About 9 out of 10 cases in the US can be prevented by making lifestyle changes. The key to prevention can be summed up in five words: stay slim and stay active.

How can I prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes?

If you’re at risk for diabetes, you may be able to prevent or delay it. Most of the things you should do involve having a healthier lifestyle. Plus, if you make these changes, you’ll also reap other health benefits. 

Detected early, diabetes can be controlled. Photo: Artem Podrez

Simple steps to reduce risk

Control your weight

Excess weight is the most important cause of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the chances of developing it seven times. Being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone at a healthy weight. 

Losing weight can help if your weight is above the healthy range. Losing 7-10% of your current weight can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in half.

Move over and turn off the television

Inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes. Moving your muscles more often and making them work harder improves your ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. This puts less stress on the insulin-producing cells. So trade some of your sitting time for setting time. Long exercise sessions are not necessary to obtain this benefit. Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study suggest that brisk walking for half an hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%. 

Follow a healthy eating plan

It’s important to reduce the number of calories you eat and drink each day to lose weight and keep it off. For that, your diet must 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.

Do not smoke 

Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you already smoke, try to quit.

Talk to your doctor to see if there is anything else that can be done to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. If you are at high risk, your doctor might suggest taking one of a few types of diabetes medication.


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