How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Diabetes
Learn how to prevent type 2 diabetes through weight loss, regular exercise, and lowering your intake of fat and calories.
If you want to lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, you'll have to make some changes. Making big changes in your life is hard, especially if you are faced with more than one change. You can make it easier by taking these steps:
- Take seriously a diagnosis of prediabetes.
- Make a plan to change behavior.
- Decide exactly what you will do and when you will do it.
- Plan what you need to get ready.
- Think about what might prevent you from reaching your goals.
- Find family and friends who will support and encourage you.
- Decide how you will reward yourself when you do what you have planned.
Your doctor, a dietitian, or a counselor can help you make a plan. Consider making changes to lower your risk of diabetes.
Your weight affects your health in many ways. Being overweight can keep your body from making and using insulin properly. (Learn more about insulin and how it affects diabetes in "What is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?")
Excess body weight can also cause high blood pressure.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body weight relative to height. You can use BMI to see whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Use the Body Mass Index Table (pdf)* to find your BMI.
- Find your height in the left-hand column.
- Move across in the same row to the number closest to your weight.
- The number at the top of that column is your BMI. Check the word above your BMI to see whether you are normal weight, overweight, or obese.
If you are overweight or obese, choose sensible ways to get in shape.
- Avoid crash diets. Instead, eat less of the foods you usually have. Limit the amount of fat you eat.
- Increase your physical activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
- Set a reasonable weight-loss goal, such as losing 1 pound a week. Aim for a long-term goal of losing 5 to 7 percent of your total body weight.
- What you eat has a big impact on your health. By making wise food choices, you can help control your body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
- Take a look at the serving sizes of the foods you eat. Reduce serving sizes of main courses such as meat, desserts, and foods high in fat. Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit your fat intake to about 25 percent of your total calories. For example, if your food choices add up to about 2,000 calories a day, try to eat no more than 56 grams of fat. Your doctor or a dietitian can help you figure out how much fat to have. You can also check food labels for fat content.
- Limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg—about 1 teaspoon of salt—each day.
- Talk with your doctor about whether you may drink alcoholic beverages. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, limit your intake to one drink—for women—or two drinks—for men—per day.
- You may also wish to reduce the number of calories you have each day. People in the DPP lifestyle change group lowered their daily calorie total by an average of about 450 calories. Your doctor or dietitian can help you with a meal plan that emphasizes weight loss.
- Keep a food and exercise log. Write down what you eat, how much you exercise—anything that helps keep you on track.
- When you meet your goal, reward yourself with a nonfood item or activity, like watching a movie.
Click here to see the Body Mass Index Table (pdf)*.
* pdf versions require the free Adobe® Acrobat Reader software for viewing.
Regular exercise tackles several diabetes risk factors at once. It helps you lose weight, keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helps your body use insulin. People in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a large clinical trial, who were physically active for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes. Many chose brisk walking for exercise.
If you are not very active, you should start slowly. Talk to your doctor first about what kinds of exercise would be safe for you. Make a plan to increase your activity level toward the goal of being active at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
Choose activities you enjoy. Some ways to work extra activity into your daily routine include the following:
- Take the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator.
- Park at the far end of the parking lot and walk.
- Get off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way.
- Walk or bicycle whenever you can.
Some people need medication to help control their blood pressure or cholesterol levels. If you do, take your medicines as directed. Ask your doctor about medicines to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Hope through Research
We now know that many people can prevent type 2 diabetes through weight loss, regular exercise, and lowering their intake of fat and calories. Researchers are intensively studying the genetic and environmental factors that underlie the susceptibility to obesity, prediabetes, and diabetes. As they learn more about the molecular events that lead to diabetes, they will develop ways to prevent and cure the different stages of this disease. DPP researchers continue to monitor DPP participants to learn more about the study's long-term effects through the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study.
People with diabetes and those at risk for it now have easier access to clinical trials that test promising new approaches to treatment and prevention. Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research. For information about current studies, visit www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
Sources: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, NIH Publication No 09-4805, November 2008
For More Information
National Diabetes Education Program
Phone: 1-888-693-NDEP (6337)
American Diabetes Association
Phone: 1-800-DIABETES (342-2383)
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
Staff, H. (2022, January 4). How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Diabetes, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, June 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/diabetes/main/how-to-reduce-your-risk-of-getting-diabetes