How do you prevent type 2 diabetes?

There are steps that people can take to significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and exercising often are three very effective preventative measures.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), over 9% of the population of the United States are living with diabetes. In 2015, the number of people living with prediabetes was over 84 million.

Since diabetes is a growing health concern, many people want to learn about ways to prevent it.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. It is not possible to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, there are several steps a person can take to significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In this article, learn which steps to take to help prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.

How to prevent type 2 diabetes

There are three ways a person can help prevent type 2 diabetes:

Maintaining a healthy weight

Man eating noodles in restaurant smiling and happy preventing type 2 diabetes
Eating a balanced diet can help with maintaining a healthy weight.

One of the most important steps a person can take to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes is to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases suggest that if a person who is overweight loses about 5–7% of their body weight, they can lower their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the ADA, being overweight can increase a person’s risk of:

If a person who is overweight reduces their total weight by just 10–15 pounds, they may reduce their risk of developing these conditions significantly.

However, effectively controlling weight can be challenging. Results are often slow to come and require changes to physical activity as well as eating habits.

Some strategies a person can try to help reach and maintain a healthy weight include:

  • joining a support group
  • keeping a food journal
  • eating smaller portions
  • drinking plenty of water
  • making a meal plan
  • joining a gym, running club, or yoga class
  • spending less time sitting during the day
  • getting enough sleep

People who want to lose weight should consider talking to their doctor about safe and effective methods.

Eating a balanced diet

Maintaining a balanced diet can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is a crucial part of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

Eating a balanced diet does not mean simply cutting calories. Eating a balanced diet involves eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and good fats.

It also means avoiding or cutting back on foods with added sugars and sodium.

Some of the best foods to include in a preventative diet include:

  • green, leafy vegetables
  • beans
  • non-starchy vegetables
  • fresh or frozen fruits
  • lean proteins, such as fish and tofu
  • nuts and seeds
  • oatmeal and whole grains

Foods to avoid include:

  • sugary beverages, including energy drinks, sodas, and juices
  • processed meats, such as bacon
  • packaged snacks
  • sweets and desserts

It is a good idea to start with small steps and changes. For example, somebody who regularly drinks soda can try replacing it with sparkling water and lime. Another example is replacing white grains and pasta with whole-grain versions.

Also, try reducing meal sizes and drinking water a few minutes before eating meals. This can help reduce the amount of calories a person consumes at meal times.

Exercising regularly

Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

An essential part of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is exercising regularly. This has a range of health benefits, including:

  • improving blood flow
  • reducing the risk of heart disease
  • improving stamina
  • reducing weight
  • providing stress relief
  • improving flexibility

There are several types of exercise a person can try to help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or running
  • strength training using weights or bands
  • stretching exercises, such as yoga or Pilates

A person can also incorporate more movement into their day by using a standing desk, parking farther away from the workplace, and using active transport.

According to the ADA, a person should aim to move or stretch every 30 minutes during the day.

Also, for maximum benefit, a person should aim to do at least 30 minutes of an aerobic activity once per day for 5 days of the week.

People should always speak with a doctor before starting an exercise regime for the first time to discuss safety and risks.

Risk factors

Risk factors that a person can reduce include their cholesterol levels and weight. Having higher levels of bad cholesterol and excess weight both increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

People can reduce some, but not all, of their risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Risk factors that a person cannot change include:

  • Age: Older people have a higher risk of developing diabetes than young people.
  • Race: American Indians, African Americans, Native Hawaiians, Mexican Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans are at a higher risk of diabetes.
  • Family history: Having a close family member, such as a sibling or parent, with type 2 diabetes increases a person’s risk.
  • Gestational diabetes: Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes.

Early signs of diabetes

Increased thirst is a potential early signs of type 2 diabetes.
Increased thirst is a potential early sign of type 2 diabetes.

There are several potential early warning signs that a person may experience that indicate they have diabetes. These include:

  • increased thirst
  • a frequent need to urinate
  • feeling of constant hunger
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue
  • developing darker patches of skin
  • itchiness
  • numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • cuts that heal slowly

When to see a doctor

As people age, they should see their family doctor for annual checkups. The doctor will usually order blood work to check for factors such as blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and other health warning signs.

At annual checkups, a person can ask their doctor about strategies that help prevent diabetes, especially if they have a family history of the condition.

If a person experiences any signs or symptoms of diabetes, it is best to speak to a doctor. This is because diagnosing diabetes early can help keep symptoms under control.


Type 2 diabetes is a growing concern for many people. Although there are some risk factors that people cannot change, such as age and family medical history, there are several steps they can take to reduce their likelihood of developing the condition.

Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can all help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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