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Tips to Prevent or Delay the Onset of Diabetes

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/4/2010

Some people are genetically predisposed to developing diabetes – but even so, it’s possible to prevent or delay the onset of symptoms.

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    If you are overweight, or have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you may be at increased risk of developing the disease yourself. However, by making a few changes to your eating and exercise habits, you can decrease the risk, and improve your overall health at the same time. Here are some quick tips on preventing diabetes.

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    How Important is Weight?

    According to the National Diabetes Education Program, if you are overweight, losing between five and seven percent of your bodyweight can reduce your diabetes risk.

    A combination of nutrition and exercise may be able to help you achieve weight loss and decrease your diabetes risk – but you will not automatically develop diabetes if you are not able to permanently lose weight. Human bodies are very complex, and weight is by no means the most important factor in determining whether you develop diabetes.

    In fact, making the right changes in the foods you eat, and increasing the amount of exercise you get, will reduce your diabetes risk even if you don’t lose any weight.

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    Nutrition

    The second in the list of tips on preventing diabetes concerns nutrition. The American Diabetes Association and the National Diabetes Education Program both recommend the following dietary changes for diabetes prevention.

    • Eat a variety of foods each day, including fresh vegetables, lean protein, healthy unsaturated fats, and complex carbohydrates.
    • When choosing vegetables, select those that are low in starch, and choose vegetables in a variety of colors to maximize nutrient values.
    • Choose whole grain carbohydrates that are high in fiber, such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, and include legumes such as lentils and beans in your carbohydrate choices.
    • Choose lean meats, and add fish to your diet two or three times a week.
    • Eat low-fat rather than whole-fat dairy products.
    • Eat a diet low in saturated fat, and add healthy fats such as vegetable oils.
    • Choose water and other low-sugar, low-calories drinks instead of soda and juice.
    • Reduce your intake of calorie-dense dessert and snack foods.

    The American Diabetes Association recently added the low-carbohydrate diet to its “approved” list of diets for the control of diabetes.

    You don’t necessarily need to adopt a low-carb diet to prevent diabetes, but reducing the amount of sugar and starches you eat is a good way of improving your body’s control of its blood sugar levels.

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    Exercise

    The last in this series of tips on preventing diabetes involves exercise. Regular exercise improves blood sugar levels because as you exercise, your body uses up available glucose. Exercise may also help you lose weight and reduce your risk further.

    The American Diabetes Association recommends thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise five times a week. The thirty minutes doesn’t need to be taken all at once – you can split up the time into three ten minute sessions, for example.

    Strength training and stretching exercises help improve your strength, bone density, and flexibility. Improving your muscle tone also helps burn calories and further aids your body in controlling blood sugar levels.