Feature Archive

4 Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

You don't have to strive for chiseled abs to drastically lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Just a few minutes a day and making better choices can get you well on your way.

By Michael Smith
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

You can hardly turn on the TV or listen to the radio without hearing a new report on the epidemic of type 2 diabetes. But what can you do to not become part of this statistic?

Type 2 diabetes -- the most common type -- occurs when the body uses insulin inefficiently and can longer keep blood sugar levels in check. Over the years, damage to nerves and blood vessels can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and leg amputation.

But type 2 diabetes is preventable in many people. And the results of a large study show you how to do just that.

We're Not Talking Six-Pack Abs

In the study, some 3,000 people at high risk for diabetes -- due to being overweight and having higher than normal blood sugar levels (a condition called prediabetes) -- followed a moderate diet and exercise program. Dropping their weight by just 5% to 7% delayed and possibly prevented type 2 diabetes. Average weight loss in the first year of the study was 15 pounds.

This doesn't mean devoting your life to six-pack abs. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day five days a week (usually by walking) and lowering their intake of fat and calories did the trick. They lowered their daily calorie total by an average of about 450 calories. People that followed this program reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%. The program was even more effective in those 60 and older -- reducing their risk of type 2 diabetes by 71%.

Do You Need to Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?

There are several factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes -- some that you can control and some that you can't.

Factors you can't control:

  • Age 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • Being of African-American, American Indian, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, or Hispanic-American/Latino descent
  • Having had diabetes that developed during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes) or giving birth to at least one baby weighing more than nine pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome -- a condition in women where the ovaries produce excess male hormones