7 Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Diabetes Risk

About 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2, but it’s preventable.

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In people with type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should. This resistance alters the way your body uses glucose (sugar). Over time, diabetes can harm your eyes, kidneys and heart; so, managing and even preventing type 2 diabetes is vital for your health and well-being.

Type 2 diabetes makes up 95 percent of diabetes cases, but it’s not inevitable. According to Gallup-Sharecare State of American Well-Being series, the incidence of adult diabetes rose from 10.6 percent in 2008 to 11.5 percent in 2016. Despite this, adult-onset diabetes is preventable. Eat a little less, walk a little more and improve your quality of life.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

Alter Your Eating

2 / 8 Alter Your Eating

Your diet is linked to your risk of type 2 diabetes. Eating a little less each day and being mindful of the foods you choose to put on your plate, can go a long way to preventing the disease. But what should you eat? Load half of your plate with fruits and veggies—a small piece of fruit or half a cup of fruit salad is a great addition to non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, mushrooms and zucchini. Fill the rest of your plate with three ounces of lean protein, like chicken or salmon and 100 percent whole grains, like quinoa, wild rice or barley. Avoid any high-fat, fried or processed foods.

Move More

3 / 8 Move More

Inactivity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Adding movement to your day doesn’t mean spending hours at the gym or setting out on a five mile run (unless that’s something you enjoy). It’s simple to add extra movement throughout the day—at work, at home and even while you’re watching television. Adults should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, like brisk walking, each week and perform muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week. Not sure where to start? Try these ideas:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Put on music and dance while you vacuum
  • Walk the dog for a few extra minutes
  • Hand deliver a message to a co-worker’s desk


Lose A Few Pounds

4 / 8 Lose A Few Pounds

If you’re carrying excess weight, you could be at an increased risk of diabetes. Being overweight or obese is the primary risk factor linked to type 2 diabetes. So, what’s the solution? Dropping a few pounds can reduce your risk. One study suggests participants who lost about seven percent of their total weight decreased their risk of diabetes by almost 60%. Individuals with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin and those with more fatty tissue have an even higher rate of resistance.

A healthy diet and exercise are a tried and true prescription for weight loss, but it’s important to consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a weight loss journey.     


Kick The Smoking Habit

5 / 8 Kick The Smoking Habit

We all know cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, can lead to lung cancer, increases risk of heart disease and promotes the development of cataracts. What many might not know is smoking also increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, smokers are about 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers. Smoking puts stress on your body’s cells in the form of inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are linked to elevated risks of diabetes. Get your plan to quit smoking and reduce your diabetes risks.

Sip Responsibly

6 / 8 Sip Responsibly

Moderate drinking, red wine especially, has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, and it may also decrease type 2 diabetes risk. But don’t down a rum and cola or chug a celebratory bottle of champagne just yet—moderation is the key to reaping these benefits. Consuming one drink a day for women and up to two for men may increase the ability of glucose to enter the body’s cells. Just don’t overdo it—in addition to adding calories to your diet, too much alcohol consumption can increase your risk of diabetes.     

What a drink looks like:

  • 12 ounce beer
  • 5 ounce glass of wine
  • 1 ½ ounce of liquor (vodka, gin, rum etc.)
Check Your Numbers

7 / 8 Check Your Numbers

Regularly checking your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels is important for anyone, but knowing both your numbers and what they mean is especially important for those at risk of diabetes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol or higher than normal blood sugar levels are all risk factors for type 2 diabetes. So, what’s normal? These numbers vary from person-to-person, and your healthcare professional will tell you if there is cause for concern. Generally, if your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, your HDL cholesterol is lower than 35 and your triglyceride level is higher than 250 or your fasting blood glucose level exceeds 100, you might be at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Get Educated

8 / 8 Get Educated

Diabetes is a serious condition that has the potential to harm your body. But, you can’t begin to prevent something you don’t know much about. Learning about your risks is the first step to preventing type 2 diabetes. We can’t change or control all of our risk factors, like a family history of diabetes, age and race but we can eat a well-balanced diet, get more exercise and make regular visits to your healthcare provider.  

Learn more about type 2 diabetes.

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