Steps You Can Take to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

We cover a topic that most likely effects you or someone you love because 30 million Americans have it and 86 million Americans are at risk. We are talking about diabetes and top things you need to do to help prevent it.

Often, there are no symptoms with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes so diagnosis comes as a surprise. Risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Being over age 45

  • History of high blood pressure

  • Having obesity or being overweight

  • High risk ethnic group such as African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native

  • Having a family history of diabetes

  • History of gestational diabetes

Some factors you can influence and some you have no control over. You can reduce your risk by not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and managing stress.

Basic blood work can show if your blood sugar is too high. A common part of fasting lab work is a fasting glucose test. If your fasting glucose is over 100 mg/dL, your doctor might add an additional fasting glucose test. If both tests come back between 100 and 125 mg/dL, this shows prediabetes. Results 126 mg/dL or higher show diabetes. Additionally, your doctor could request another simple blood test called a hemoglobin A1C. This test gives the doctor an estimate of your average blood sugar over the last three months.

If you are at risk for diabetes or have prediabetes, the two main things you can do to reduce your risk of developing diabetes are a weight loss of 5 to 10% and increasing moderate intensity exercise to at least 150 minutes per week. The Diabetes Prevention Program, found that for people with prediabetes modest lifestyle changes led to weight loss of 5 to 7 percent in participants and can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 58% in individuals at high risk. So the key is, since so many of us are at risk based on those risk factors mentioned, it's vital to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits. Let’s start with the exercise part and really look at it more as moving more.

Examples of moderate intensity exercise are brisk walking (about 4 MPH), heavy cleaning (washing windows, vacuuming, mopping), mowing the lawn (power mower), bicycling at light effort (10-12 mph) or doubles tennis. In a week, you could do a brisk walk for 30 minutes, 5 times to reach 150 minutes. Or 3 longer 50 minute walks. You could do 60 minutes of heavy cleaning and 2 45-minute bike rides. Of course, the more, the merrier! Make moving more a daily habit by walking while you talk on the phone, taking the long route to the bathroom at work, getting out of the car instead of using drive-thrus, or taking stairs instead of elevators. These simple changes can help you get into the habit of being a more active person.

In addition, the American Diabetes Association recommends incorporating some type of resistance exercises at least twice a week for about 20 minutes each. This brings the grand total to 190 minutes a week or 27 minutes per day. Ideally, spread out through the week with no more than 2 days in a row without exercising. Examples of resistance exercise:

  • Heavy gardening

  • Classes that involve strength training

  • Calisthenics or exercises that use your own body weight to work your muscles (examples are pushups, sit ups, squats, lunges, wall-sits and planks)

  • Lifting light weights or objects like canned goods or water bottles at home

  • Using resistance bands

  • Weight machines or free weights at the gym

Next is the 5 to 10% weight loss goal. For example, if someone’s starting weight is 5'4" and 200 pounds with a body mass index (BMI) of 34, the weight loss target for preventing diabetes is 10 to 20 pounds to lose and maintain that loss. There are several ways to lose weight through diet and we always encourage our listeners to find the way that works best for your body. If you don’t know where to start, download an app to track your dietary intake and keep your calorie intake to that it suggests to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Some will be very successful on a balanced macro plan and others will prefer a very low carb plan to lose weight. Just like any other healthy eating plan, you really don’t know how it is working without being consistent, so don’t give up. Talk to a registered dietitian or look into a weight management program for one-on-one help.

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