Lifestyle changes can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Prevention is especially important if you're currently at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes because of excess weight or obesity, high cholesterol, or a family history of diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes — high blood sugar that doesn't reach the threshold of a diabetes diagnosis — lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of disease.
Making a few changes in your lifestyle now may help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes in the future, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage. It's never too late to start.
Losing weight reduces the risk of diabetes. People in one large study reduced their risk of developing diabetes by almost 60% after losing approximately 7% of their body weight with changes in exercise and diet.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with prediabetes lose at least 7% to 10% of their body weight to prevent disease progression. More weight loss will translate into even greater benefits.
Set a weight-loss goal based on your current body weight. Talk to your doctor about reasonable short-term goals and expectations, such as a losing 1 to 2 pounds a week.
There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise can help you:
Goals for most adults to promote weight loss and maintain a healthy weight include:
Plants provide vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates in your diet. Carbohydrates include sugars and starches — the energy sources for your body — and fiber. Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, is the part of plant foods your body can't digest or absorb.
Fiber-rich foods promote weight loss and lower the risk of diabetes. Eat a variety of healthy, fiber-rich foods, which include:
The benefits of fiber include:
Avoid foods that are "bad carbohydrates" — high in sugar with little fiber or nutrients: white bread and pastries, pasta from white flour, fruit juices, and processed foods with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
Fatty foods are high in calories and should be eaten in moderation. To help lose and manage weight, your diet should include a variety of foods with unsaturated fats, sometimes called "good fats."
Unsaturated fats — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — promote healthy blood cholesterol levels and good heart and vascular health. Sources of good fats include:
Saturated fats, the "bad fats," are found in dairy products and meats. These should be a small part of your diet. You can limit saturated fats by eating low-fat dairy products and lean chicken and pork.
Many fad diets — such as the glycemic index, paleo or keto diets — may help you lose weight. There is little research, however, about the long-term benefits of these diets or their benefit in preventing diabetes.
Your dietary goal should be to lose weight and then maintain a healthier weight moving forward. Healthy dietary decisions, therefore, need to include a strategy that you can maintain as a lifelong habit. Making healthy decisions that reflect some of your own preferences for food and traditions may be beneficial for you over time.
One simple strategy to help you make good food choices and eat appropriate portions sizes is to divide up your plate. These three divisions on your plate promote healthy eating:
The American Diabetes Association recommends routine screening with diagnostic tests for type 2 diabetes for all adults age 45 or older and for the following groups:
Share your concerns about diabetes prevention with your doctor. He or she will appreciate your efforts to prevent diabetes and may offer additional suggestions based on your medical history or other factors.