Home Health Diabetes Prevention

How to Prevent Diabetes

Prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes may be prevented with medically supervised changes that can help mitigate risk factors, such as quitting smoking, adjusting sleep patterns and eating a low-sugar diet. Type 1 diabetes, however, is a chronic genetic disease.

Last Modified: June 21, 2022
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How Can Diabetes Be Prevented?

While there is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes, a condition that is likely hereditary, there are steps that people at risk for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes can take that may help prevent these conditions from developing.

Not all risk factors can be easily addressed. There are several risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, including a history of strokes, low HDL or “good” cholesterol levels, high levels of triglycerides, polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS and a family history of diabetes. Some measures that have been successful for patients in preventing diabetes include lifestyle modifications that can prevent insulin resistance from developing.

Insulin encourages blood sugar, or glucose, to enter blood cells, which need glucose for energy. Insulin resistance means cells don’t respond properly to insulin and the pancreas overworks to produce increasing amounts of insulin and eventually blood sugar levels rise.

It’s essential to speak with your doctor about potential risk factors and discuss a safe plan for lowering blood sugar and improving overall health as early as possible. Many people develop prediabetes without experiencing any warning signs or symptoms of diabetes. As the CDC reports, 96 million Americans have prediabetes, but 80% of them don’t know they do.

5 Tips for Preventing Diabetes

The goal is to either prevent prediabetes from turning into Type 2 diabetes or slow down and delay the progression of the disease if the disease has evolved. Many diabetes treatment options for both prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes overlap.

The following key steps may be useful tools in a comprehensive plan to prevent diabetes. Your doctor may recommend some or all of these as part of your individual plan. In some cases, doctors may prescribe medication as well.

1. Quit Smoking

Smoking is just one risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes. Smokers are almost 40% more likely to develop Type 2 than a non-smoker. The more often someone smokes, the higher their risk. Smoking while diabetic can cause problems, such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Kidney disease and liver damage
  • Loss of blood flow to extremities
  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage in extremities

A loss of blood flow to extremities can lead to ulcers, infections and even amputations. Nerve damage in extremities can cause numbness, pain and poor coordination.

A person who decides to stop smoking will begin benefitting immediately when it comes to their health and smoking’s tendency to exacerbate diabetes. A non-smoker has a much easier time managing their blood levels and, therefore, a better chance of reversing those levels to where they need to be.

2. Improve Sleep Patterns

Common sleep disorders and their related disturbances, such as mental exhaustion or confusion, can cause changes in hormone production. Too much sleep, too little sleep, sleep apnea symptoms and a lack of a sleeping routine have all been tied to a body’s intolerance of glucose.

People without other risk factors for diabetes, who are otherwise in good overall health, were found to have as much as 25% to 30% decreased insulin sensitivity because of insufficient sleep in even short periods of four to five days.

Researchers have found that without a healthy sleep routine of 7-8 hours per night, people are 40% more likely to develop prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes sometime in their life. For patients who manage their sleep apnea symptoms — for example, using their CPAP daily throughout the night — reportedly receive similar benefits to a dose of Type 2 diabetic medication.

3. Safe Weight Loss

Much diabetes prevention advice focuses on creating a diabetes diet. But it’s important to develop a safe plan. Crash, or fad, dieting, and other unsafe weight loss techniques can have negative impacts on health and affect the amount of insulin your pancreas releases.

A sustainable and healthy balance of nutrients is essential. Your doctor or a nutritionist will be able to offer robust health information and advice and examples of diabetic diets that have worked well with others.

While losing between 5% and 10% of body fat has been found to potentially decrease a person’s risk of developing Type 2 and prediabetes by as much as 58%, not all people at risk for prediabetes and Type 2 are overweight. But some patients who are even medically classified as underweight have been found to have high percentages of body fat and can benefit from a healthy nutrition plan.

4. Regular Exercise

Discuss an exercise plan with a doctor to find out what practices are most effective and safe for you. Sometimes, a person with additional health conditions may have restrictions on types or frequency of exercise. A doctor can help you create an optimal plan for your needs and overall health.

Sometimes people lose weight through a new exercise regimen, but then scale back or stop exercising when they’ve reached their goal. Generally, exercise should become part of a life-long plan that consists of at least 2.5 hours of heart-pumping moderate to vigorous physical activities in a week.

Exercise can decrease a person’s chance of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58%. People at risk, including those of diverse weights and other health variables, can benefit from improved physical health from a safe exercise plan tailored to their needs.

5. Maintain a Healthy Diet

A sustainable and healthy meal plan can be personalized to meet anyone’s unique needs. Many people believe that they must abstain from carbs on a diabetic diet, but this isn’t true. Carbs can increase blood sugar, but this isn’t the entire story.

When complex carbs are consumed with proteins, healthy fats and fiber, they can slow down a rising glucose level, rather than raise it further.

Diabetes diets typically include more non starchy vegetables and less refined grains and sugar. Processed foods should also be avoided, and moderation is always key to eating healthy. Managing portions can help you balance your blood sugar without depriving yourself. Deprivation doesn’t work and risks malnutrition.

When Should You Talk to a Doctor?

It is essential to discuss any potential risk factors with a doctor. Testing for diabetes during annual physicals can catch diabetes early, which usually means the condition will be easier to treat.

In addition to watching out for symptoms of high blood sugar, patients should also watch for symptoms of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Contact your doctor if any of the following high or low blood sugar symptoms occur:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Feeling shaky or jittery
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or confused
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Stomach pains
  • Talking and breathing very quickly
  • Inability to speak clearly

Anyone with diabetes should make speaking to their doctor about the best approach to balancing their blood sugar a top health priority. Call the doctor immediately if any symptoms increase or problems occur that are out of the ordinary.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.