Can I develop diabetes even if I exercise and eat a healthy diet?

Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Genetics is the largest factor affecting whether you are going to develop diabetes. If you have a very strong family history of diabetes, it may be difficult for you to prevent the development of diabetes altogether. The second major risk factor, of course, is obesity.  Diabetes may also be triggered by taking certain medications, especially anti-inflammatory steroids like prednisone or dexamethasone.  These drugs are used to treat many autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, including many forms of arthritis, asthma and other conditions. 
Maintaining a normal body weight, eating right and exercising regularly will help delay the development of the diabetes, even in someone who has a strong hereditary tendency for the disease. For example, someone who is genetically programmed to develop diabetes at a normal body weight when he is, say, age 65, might develop diabetes at 45 if he is substantially overweight. So exercise and proper diet will help prevent the development of diabetes as early as it otherwise would occur.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.