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Patient education: Preventing type 2 diabetes (The Basics)

Patient education: Preventing type 2 diabetes (The Basics)

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented? — Yes. To lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, the most important thing you can do is eat a healthy diet and get plenty of physical activity. This can help you lose weight if you are overweight. But eating well and being active are also good for your overall health. Even gentle activity, like walking, has benefits.

If you smoke, quitting can also lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. This can be hard to do, but your doctor or nurse can help. Quitting smoking also lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, and lots of other problems.

If you are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, your doctor might also suggest taking a medicine called "metformin" to help lower your risk.

What increases my risk for type 2 diabetes? — There are a few things that can increase your risk of diabetes, including:

Being overweight or having obesity, especially if you carry your extra weight in your belly area

Not doing enough physical activity


Having a close relative with diabetes

Having diabetes during pregnancy, called "gestational diabetes"

People who are Asian American, Latin American, or African American are also at increased risk for diabetes.

Are there tests that can find people who are at risk? — Yes. There are 3 different tests that can help doctors tell whether a person might develop type 2 diabetes. All 3 tests measure blood sugar in different ways. "Blood glucose" is another name for blood sugar.

Even though these tests can help predict diabetes, they are not appropriate for everyone. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about whether you should have any of these tests. Often, people who get tested are overweight and have another risk factor for diabetes, such a relative with diabetes.

If a blood test shows that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes, doctors call it "pre-diabetes." People with pre-diabetes are at high risk of developing diabetes.

Fasting glucose test – This test measures your blood sugar when you have not had anything to eat or drink (except water) for at least 8 hours. People with pre-diabetes have a fasting glucose between 100 and 125 (table 1).

Glucose tolerance test – For this test you do not eat or drink anything for 8 to 12 hours. But then, as part of the test, you have a sugary drink. Two hours later, a doctor or nurse takes a blood sample to see how high your blood sugar got. People with pre-diabetes have glucose tolerance results between 140 and 199 (table 1).

Hemoglobin A1C test (or "A1C") – This test can be done at any time, even if you have recently eaten. It is a blood test that shows what your average blood sugar level has been for the past 2 to 3 months. People with pre-diabetes have A1C levels between 5.7 and 6.4.

What should I do if I have pre-diabetes? — If you have pre-diabetes, you can make lifestyle changes to lower the chance that you will get diabetes. Here's what you can do:

Eat a healthy diet – Try to eat a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, but low in meats, sweets, and refined grains. If you don't have fresh fruits and vegetables available, you can eat frozen ones instead. Try to avoid sweet drinks, like soda and juice.

If you are overweight, trying to get to a healthy body weight can help. Losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can lower your risk a lot. If you weigh 200 pounds, this would mean losing 10 to 20 pounds. If you weigh 150 pounds, it would mean losing 7 to 15 pounds. Your doctor or nurse can help you find healthy ways to do this.

Be active for 30 minutes a day – You don't have to go to the gym or do heavy exercise to get a benefit. Activities like walking, gardening, and dancing can all help improve your health.

Quit smoking – If you smoke, ask your doctor or nurse for advice on how to quit. People are much more likely to succeed if they have help and get medicines to help them quit.

Take your medicines — If your doctor or nurse prescribed any medicines, take them every day as instructed. This might include medicines to prevent diabetes and others to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol. People with pre-diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other problems, so these medicines are important.

More on this topic

Patient education: Hemoglobin A1C tests (The Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: The ABCs of diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Treatment for type 2 diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Weight loss treatments (The Basics)
Patient education: Diet and health (The Basics)
Patient education: Exercise and movement (The Basics)
Patient education: Quitting smoking (The Basics)
Patient education: Health risks of obesity (The Basics)

Patient education: Type 2 diabetes and diet (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes: Overview (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes: Treatment (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes: Alcohol, exercise, and medical care (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 01, 2023.
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