Diabetes Prevention: 11 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes Prevention: 11 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a serious medical condition that affects around 6% of the world population. However, it is highly preventable through simple lifestyle changes. It is different from Type 1 diabetes which usually appears much sooner in life due to various causes that can be hereditary. Type 2 diabetes is mainly lifestyle related and develops over time. 

What Is Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic medical condition affecting 462 million individuals, corresponding to 6.28% of the world's population. [1] 

Diabetes symptoms include increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, frequent infections and poor wound healing, darkened skin in the armpits or neck, numbness or tingling in hands or feet. 

If untreated, it can lead to many severe complications like diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blindness, heart disease, diabetic nephropathy causing kidney failure, and diabetic neuropathy, which leads to nerve damage, diabetic foot, etc. 

People with higher blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) are considered prediabetic. Their blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. 

Around 37% of prediabetic patients who leave their condition untreated may develop diabetes in 4 years. 

There is a genetic predisposition to Type 2 diabetes, but it also largely depends on lifestyle factors. Therefore, taking a few simple steps can significantly lower anybody's risk of developing diabetes. 

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention - Ways to Prevent Diabetes

A healthy and balanced diet prevents and treats type 2 diabetes. So does regular exercise. Lack of physical activity is another important factor in the development of diabetes. Regular physical activity increases insulin sensitivity, leading to better glucose utilization by cells. In addition, various types of physical activity have been shown to reduce insulin resistance. See below 11 ways to decrease your chance of developing type 2 diabetes, which will simultaneously make your life more active and healthier.

1. Diabetes Prevention Diet: Manage Your Carbohydrates 

In our body, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules. As a result, they are absorbed into the bloodstream, increasing blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. The increased glucose levels stimulate the pancreas to release insulin - a hormone that lowers blood sugar by moving it from the bloodstream inside the cells. People with prediabetes have insulin resistance, meaning their cells aren't sensitive enough to insulin, which leads to impaired glucose utilization and thus higher blood glucose levels even when fasted. 

Lowering your carbohydrate intake will lower your blood glucose levels. However, you should focus not only on the quantity of carbs but also the quality and type. [2]

2. Minimize Highly Processed Foods

Highly processed foods often contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, chemical preservatives, and other added ingredients. These are, for example, potato chips, sodas and other soft drinks, and candy bars. One of the studies has found that eating highly processed foods increases diabetes risk by 30%. [3,4]

3. Follow a High-Fiber Diet

High-fiber diets can help you prevent diabetes but also have other beneficial effects like better gut health and weight management. [5]

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers absorb water forming a gel in your gastrointestinal tract, leading to slower food absorption, thus a gradual rise in blood sugar.

Several studies have also shown that low insoluble fiber intake leads to increased insulin levels, thus promoting prevention of insulin resistance. [7]

Eating various healthy, fiber-rich foods will help you prevent type 2 diabetes. These foods include fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fiber also improves cholesterol levels and blood pressure and reduces inflammation. Furthermore, it is filling, which can effectively suppress your appetite, making it easier to manage your weight through dieting. 

4. Watch Your Vitamin D Intake

Several studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. [8, 9] Vitamin D supplements can help you manage your blood sugar levels. [10,11]

5. Choose Drinks without Added Sugars

Stick to water as your primary beverage. Replacing sodas, juices, and other sugary drinks with water can significantly lower your health risks. [12] Few studies showed that drinking 1-2 sugary beverages per day could increase your risk of diabetes development by around 20%. [13, 14]

Although water is the best primary beverage, coffee and tea also have some benefits. They both contain antioxidants, which can improve your health and protect you against diabetes. [15] Daily intake of coffee was proven to lower your chances of developing diabetes by 54%. [16] Green tea has also been linked to reduced risk. [17] However, you should avoid adding sugars and syrups to your coffee since it can increase and therefore worsen your blood sugar levels. 

6. Do Aerobic Exercise

It can include brisk walking, swimming, biking, or running. Thirty minutes of exercise on most days for at least 150 minutes per week is sufficient. If you aren't used to exercising, start with shorter bouts and gradually increase the time. [18]

7. Don't Forget about Resistance Exercise

This exercise can help you increase your strength, balance, and stamina. You can do yoga, weightlifting, or calisthenics at least 2-3 times a week. [19]

8. Add High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to Your Exercise Plan

HIIT is a particular type of exercise consisting of brief alternating periods of intense or explosive anaerobic moves followed by short recovery periods until exhaustion. It can help you to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time and improve your cardiovascular health. [20]


9. Cut Back on Sedentary Lifestyle 

Sittin less helps to prevent type 2 diabetes. [21, 22] One study has shown that people who sit excessively (at least 10 hours) were twice more likely to develop diabetes. [23] It is nearly effortless to change this behavior. You can stand up from your desk and go for a walk for a few minutes every hour. Some devices, like fitness watches, can help you remember when to stand up and walk more. 

10. Lose Weight if Overweight

Excess weight can significantly increase the chances of developing several serious diseases, including diabetes. Visceral fat around the waist and abdominal organs has been linked to diabetes, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation. [24, 25] If your weight concerns you, you can achieve weight loss through many different approaches. Still, it should best be a combination of a healthy balanced diet with appropriate portions and regular exercise. [26]

11. Last Tip for Diabetes Prevention: Quit Smoking 

Smoking is known to cause or contribute to several serious health conditions such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, etc. But it has also been proven to contribute to diabetes development by influencing insulin resistance and secretion. Additionally, heavy smoking is linked to higher risks than smoking fewer cigarettes. [27, 28, 29, 30] 

Genetics of Type 2 Diabetes

Studies have shown genetics and family history plays a significant role in type 2 diabetes development. Genome-wide association studies have identified more than 65 genetic variants that increase the risk by 10-30%. However, it also largely depends on environmental factors. Several types of research showed that it is possible to delay or prevent diabetes by taking several simple steps. 

Diabetes is a prevalent and serious health condition, so it is important to identify individuals at high risk of developing it. The easiest way to know if your genes predispose you to type 2 diabetes is to get yourself a genetic test. Macromo offers several types of DNA tests, which help people make actionable and evidence-based lifestyle decisions that prevent health complications from developing. 

Summary of Recommendations

  • Avoid processed foods, added sugars, and smoking.
  • Consuming fewer carbohydrates will lower your blood sugar levels, but also think about their quality, not just quantity. 
  • Maintain a healthy balanced diet.
  • Include plenty of fiber in your diet. 
  • Exercise regularly and cut back on a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Try various exercises, including aerobic or resistance training and HIIT.