The pancreas produces insulin to help maintain steady blood sugar levels. In individuals with type 2 diabetes, not enough insulin is produced. Because of the lack of insulin, blood sugar levels can become too high. This may lead to several types of problems, including heart and kidney damage. Type 2 diabetes also may cause damage to the eyes and nerves throughout the body. Various hereditary and lifestyle factors cause diabetes. Although not all factors can be prevented, there are some things you can do to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Understand the risk factors. Individuals with a close relative–such as a sibling or parent who have type 2 diabetes–are at a higher risk of developing the condition. People who are Asian, Native American and African American are at risk. Other risk factors include having high blood pressure and being overweight. Take the risk assessment quiz on the American Diabetes Association’s Website (see Resources).
Know if you have pre-diabetes. This occurs when blood sugar levels are not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, but they are higher than normal. If you have risk factors, ask your doctor about the need for testing. Your doctor can diagnose pre-diabetes through two different tests, including the fasting plasma glucose test (FPGT) and an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Sugar levels over 100mg/di in a FPGT and levels over 140mg/di for the OGTT are usually considered pre-diabetes. Knowing you are pre-diabetic may motivate you to make the needed lifestyle changes to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about sensible ways to lose weight. Although individual calories requirements vary according to age, gender and activity level, you will need to take in fewer calories than you burn each day to lose weight. Even losing small amounts of weight, such as fifteen pounds, can lower the risk of diabetes.
Exercise on most days. Cardiovascular exercise not only helps control weight, but it may also help lower blood pressure, which contributes to type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends people do some form of cardiovascular exercise–such as aerobic classes, swimming or brisk walking–for 30 minutes, five times a week. If you are new to exercise, consult with your doctor first before starting.
Eat a healthy diet. Eat vegetables and fruit everyday. Select vegetables, such as spinach and green beans which are low in starch. Eat fish a few times a week and whole grains daily. Prepare foods by grilling, steaming or broiling. Avoid fried foods. Healthy eating may help you maintain a healthy weight.