How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. However, you can dramatically reduce your risk by making changes to your lifestyle.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes—but thankfully, unlike Type 1 diabetes, it’s preventable through simple lifestyle changes. However, like type 1 diabetes, it’s still a dangerous condition that disrupts your body’s ability to manage blood sugar levels, which can lead to long-term complications like kidney and nerve damage, heart disease, skin conditions, and even Alzheimer’s.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity and can develop as early as adolescence. Understanding more about your personal risk factors and preventive opportunities will help you reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in your lifetime.

What risk factors can lead to Type 2 diabetes?

Not all risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are lifestyle-related. Some are genetic and beyond your control. Still, understanding your risk factors will help you and your doctor come up with a personalized plan for how you can reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Genetic risk factors:

  • Race: African American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian Americans have an increased risk.
  • Family history: The risk of Type 2 diabetes increases if a parent or sibling has the disease.
  • Gestational diabetes: Pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes or give birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds are at a higher risk.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Fat distribution: Those who are genetically predisposed to store fat in the abdomen are at a greater risk.
  • Age: The risk of diabetes increases with age, especially after age 45.

Lifestyle risk factors:

  • Inactivity: The less active you are, the greater your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight: Being overweight is a major risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, although not everyone who develops the disease is overweight.
  • Diet: A diet high in fat, calories and cholesterol can disrupt your body’s insulin production, causing too much blood sugar to build up in the blood.

What lifestyle changes help prevent diabetes?

Even if you have been diagnosed as prediabetic, you have the opportunity to slow or stop the progression of diabetes through healthy lifestyle changes. While your primary care doctor will be able to give you personalized recommendations for reducing your risk, the following are effective preventive measures you can take:

  • Eat healthy foods: Focus on eating wholesome foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit sugar intake.
  • Lose weight: If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help reduce your risk of diabetes. Maintaining this weight loss through diet and exercise is key.
  • Get moving: Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. This could include taking a brisk walk, riding a bike, swimming or going to the gym. Try not to remain sedentary for long periods of time. If you have a desk job, get up and move around for a few minutes a couple times each hour.
  • Reduce stress: Stress not only spikes your blood pressure, but it may also spike your blood sugar levels. Be proactive in avoiding stress. Get plenty of sleep and don’t hesitate to say no to things that cause you stress.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco: Both of these can cause insulin resistance.
  • Build muscle: Your body is more efficient at burning calories when you have more muscle mass. Building muscle can help you reach a healthy weight and stabilize blood glucose levels.

Ask your primary care doctor what you can do to control your individual risk for Type 2 diabetes. Don’t have a regular primary care doctor? MyHealthKC can help you find the right one for you. Just answer a few questions to see a list of providers in your area who match with your personality and health care needs.