3 Changes to Help Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

man using blood glucose monitor

Medically reviewed in November 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two people die from diabetes-related causes every five minutes. But there's good news: If caught early, type 2 diabetes can be managed and sometimes even reversed with simple lifestyle changes. Here are three that can make a difference.

1. Lose weight.  If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes and are considered overweight, the first step may be to put together a healthy diet and exercise plan. Excess fat increases insulin resistance, which is one of the main drivers of diabetes. Insulin helps bring sugar from the blood into cells; people with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or their bodies become resistant to it, resulting in a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream. Losing just 5% to 8% of bodyweight can help the body produce more insulin and use it more efficiently.

2.  Track your food. One of the best ways to manage diabetes is to limit your carbohydrates, which will help you control your blood sugar levels – and that's critical when you have diabetes. Counting carbs and calories is a great way to lose weight, too, but it can be tricky and tedious. Luckily, it’s easier than ever with informative websites and apps. These apps have nutritional information for thousands of foods, with macronutrients like carbs, protein and fat already broken out. Some apps even have features where you can use your phone’s camera to scan the barcode on a package and automatically log your meals. That means there’s no more excuses for tracking what you eat.

3. Move more. Exercise provides a ton of benefits for people with diabetes. Physical activity improves insulin’s ability to regulate blood sugar, which is what managing your diabetes is all about. Moving more can also help you lose weight, and it’s good for the heart as well. Your goal: 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, five days a week. If you can’t work out that much, don’t worry: Some is better than none. Research suggests that high intensity interval training, where you go all out for a short period (say, 30 seconds) and rest for a longer period (90 seconds), burns calories faster and improves blood sugar control compared to slow, continuous exercise.

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