Type 2 diabetes is a serious but common disease that can harm many organs of the body.

Currently, 40 percent of people in the United States are expected to develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

There are ways to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This article will look at six of them.

A woman taking a blood sugar readingShare on Pinterest
Glucose is used for energy, so checking levels is very important.

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, refers to a group of metabolic diseases where the body does not adequately produce insulin or use insulin properly. Insulin plays a crucial role in delivering glucose, or sugar, into the cells where it is then used for energy.

People with untreated or poorly managed diabetes have abnormally high levels of glucose in their blood. This can lead to organ damage and other complications.

Too much glucose in the blood is called hyperglycemia. Symptoms include fatigue, blurry vision, hunger, increased thirst, and frequent urination.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for about 90-95 percent of all diagnosed cases. In type 2 diabetes, the body develops a resistance to insulin.

This means the body can’t use insulin to absorb blood sugar into the cells to be used for energy. Some people with type 2 diabetes may stop producing enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels within normal ranges.

Type 2 diabetes usually affects people who are older. It emerges more slowly than type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may not have noticeable symptoms. A person may have type 2 diabetes without knowing it.

Treatment of type 2 diabetes involves diet, exercise, and sometimes medications. Lifestyle changes can also help to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease, thought to be an autoimmune disease that usually develops during childhood and adolescence. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes insulin-producing cells for harmful invaders and destroys them.

Eventually, a person with type 1 diabetes stops producing insulin entirely. This means that glucose cannot enter the cells. The glucose level in the blood will rise until insulin therapy is begun.

Can type 1 diabetes be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Research is taking place to understand the disease better and find ways to stop the destruction of insulin-producing cells.

Here are some suggestions about how to prevent type 2 diabetes and maintain overall health:

1. Get regular blood glucose screenings

Blood tests can detect prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Those who are overweight, older, or who have other risk factors should have regular diabetes screenings.

The American Diabetes Association recommend that testing begins at 45 years of age and takes place every 3 years. If other risk factors exist, testing may be started sooner and be done more frequently.

There are three tests that can diagnose prediabetes and type 2 diabetes:

  • Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test: This blood test checks for the average blood sugar level for the previous 2 to 3 months. An A1C of at least 5.7 percent is associated with a greater risk of getting type 2 diabetes. An A1C level of more than 6.5 percent is diagnostic for diabetes.
  • Fasting blood sugar test: A blood test is done to measure blood sugar after an overnight fast. A blood sugar level from 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is diagnostic for prediabetes. A blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or higher suggests diabetes.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test: This test is useful for diagnosing diabetes during pregnancy. Blood is taken to measure blood sugar after an 8 hour fast. Then, another blood test to measure blood sugar is taken either 1 or 2 hours after drinking a sugar solution. The doctor will determine the next steps depending on these results.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

People can lower their risk for type 2 diabetes by more than 50 percent by losing 7 percent of their body weight and exercising regularly. Weight loss can be achieved through healthier food choices and regular physical activity.

3. Follow a healthy and balanced diet

Healthy eating begins with nutritious foods that contain protein, carbohydrates, and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals. Sweets, processed, and salty drinks and foods are best avoided, or eaten only in moderation.

It is better to replace refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, white bread, and sweetened drinks such as sodas, with complex carbohydrates. These include whole grains, legumes, whole fruits, and vegetables.

People should be mindful about the carbohydrates, protein, and fat eaten at each meal. Phone and web apps can help with meal planning.

4. Get enough fiber

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Eating high-fiber foods may not only help to reduce the chances of type 2 diabetes, it can help maintain overall health as well.

Fiber helps people to feel fuller and more satisfied after meals.

It helps to control blood sugar by slowing the digestion of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.

Other important health benefits of fiber include lowering cholesterol and keeping bowel movements regular.

Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes such as beans are all good sources of fiber.

While these foods are nutritious, it is important to eat them as part of a balanced meal.

5. Get active

Regular physical activity or exercise is important in reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Experts recommend that everyone, including those at risk of diabetes, should engage in moderate exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days per week.

Examples of moderate exercise include a brisk walk, yard work, biking, hiking, and swimming. People with health problems should speak with a health provider about their best fitness options.

6. Reduce stress

Stress is believed to affect blood sugar in two ways. First, people under stress might neglect their healthy habits of eating balanced meals and exercising. There is also evidence that stress can raise blood sugar levels.

Reducing stress and taking care of one’s emotional health can help to prevent diabetes. Ways of relaxing include deep breathing, meditation, and taking time to relax.

There are several causes and risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Being overweight or obese

Obesity is an important risk factor. Of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, 85 percent are overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9, or obese, with a BMI of 30 or more.

Excess fat can trigger the cells to develop insulin resistance, especially if fat is concentrated around the belly.

Older age

As people grow older, the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke increases.

The risk for type 2 diabetes rises particularly at or after the age of 45 years. However, younger people can develop type 2 diabetes.

Family history of type 2 diabetes

If a person has a first-degree relative with diabetes, such as parent or sibling, they have a higher chance of developing it too.

Race or ethnicity

African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asian-Americans have a greater risk than others of developing type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure

Having high blood pressure is a risk factor for diabetes. High blood pressure is generally defined as a blood pressure equal to or over 140/90 mmHg. At present, the exact relationship between high blood pressure and diabetes is not clear.

Abnormal blood fat levels

Cholesterol is a group of fats that includes “good” cholesterol (HDL) and triglycerides. These fats are a natural part of how the body works, but too many triglycerides or too little HDL is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Overall, high total cholesterol is associated with health problems such as heart disease, blood vessel disease, and stroke.


Prediabetes is defined as having high blood sugar, but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is a warning sign that a person will develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

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