Diabetes: If You Can’t Prevent It, You May Be Able to Delay It

Diabetes: If You Can’t Prevent It, You May Be Able to Delay It

When it comes to diabetes, small changes in your diet and lifestyle can have a big payoff. In fact, they may be able to help you prevent the disease or delay its onset. How?

Many people don't know they have prediabetes – a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Here's the good news: Prediabetes can be reversed.

Through a national study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that millions of high-risk people can delay or avoid developing type 2 diabetes by losing weight through regular physical activity and a diet low in fat calories.”

According to the NIH the three major causes of type 2 diabetes are often within our control. They include:

  • Excess weight, particularly that spare tire that shows up around the waist.
  • Physical inactivity. To put it simply, you must figure out ways to get your body moving.
  • Sleep problems. Believe it or not, poor sleep can raise the risk of obesity and diabetes.
Diabetes Basics

When we eat, most of our food is turned into glucose, or sugar, that the body uses as energy. With diabetes, blood sugar, or blood glucose, is too high. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, moves the sugar around the body and to our cells.

For a person with diabetes, the body doesn't make enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin it does make. In either case, sugar builds up in the blood. Over time, this may lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, blindness and more.

Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.

With type 1 diabetes, the body does not make any insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin each day.

With type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it well. This is the most common form of diabetes and the type that can benefit from lifestyle changes.

Simple Ways to Fight Diabetes

Adding more physical activity to your day and eating better aren’t new messages. But how do you really make it happen? It may be easier than you think. Start with small steps outlined in these tips. Healthy actions do add up!

  1. When possible, use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  2. Walk in place while watching TV.
  3. When you're doing errands, park a little farther away or get off the bus a stop earlier.
  4. Eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice.
  5. Drink plain water instead of juice, soda, flavored water or diet drinks.
  6. Cut down your salt. Try to cook more with spices.
  7. Never grocery shop on an empty stomach.
  8. If you need to snack between meals, try to choose whole foods like grains, fruits or veggies. Even popcorn without the salt can take care of those hunger pains

Delaying diabetes is the first step to preventing diabetes. Along with making healthy changes, talk with your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested. Be sure to let your care provider know if you have a family history of diabetes. 

Sources: Diabetes Prevention Program, leaving site icon National Institutes of Health; Diabetes Overview, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association, 2020; Prediabetes - Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, leaving site icon The Surprising Truth About Prediabetesleaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.
Important Information

Originally published December 5, 2016 Revised 2019, 2020; 2021