Reducing Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes or have risk factors for type 2 diabetes, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing the condition. These steps include:

Regular Exercise and Weight Loss

Insulin is a hormone produced in the body. It helps glucose move out of the blood and into body tissue for use as energy. Excess body weight makes your tissue less responsive to insulin. This can lead to high blood glucose levels. By losing weight, your body tissue will be more sensitive to insulin and will be better able to use insulin.

Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes in 2 ways:

  • Exercise alone lowers blood glucose levels by making your cells more sensitive to insulin.
  • Regular exercise will help you lose weight.

Heart disease is a common complication of diabetes. Regular exercise can help lower the levels of fat and cholesterol in your blood and lower your blood pressure. This will decrease your risk for heart disease.

Choose exercises that you enjoy. Make it part of your daily routine. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthy weight. The goal should be to exercise for at least 150 minutes/week. This should be moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, riding a bicycle, playing tennis, or doing water aerobics. In addition, strength training should be done at least twice a week. Examples of strength training include using free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands. Try to tay active throughout the day. Avoid long periods of sitting or inactivity.

Before you start any exercise program, talk to your doctor. It is important that you wear a diabetes identification bracelet when you exercise.

Too little sleep can contribute to weight gain. Aim for 7-8 hours of good sleep each night.

Dietary Changes

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) offers these guidelines for reducing your risk of developing diabetes:

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fats (such as whole milk, cream, ice cream, meat).
  • Eat a diet low in cholesterol.
  • Eat a high fiber diet.
  • Watch portion sizes.

If you want to change your eating habits, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian. A dietitian can help you create an individualized eating plan that includes all of the nutrients your body needs.


Medications commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes may also be prescribed to prevent the condition in people who are at high risk. Examples of these medications include:

  • Metformin
  • Pioglitazone
  • Acarbose


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Evidence-based nutrition principles and recommendations for the treatment and prevention of diabetes and related complications. American Diabetes Association website. Available at:
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Measuring physical activity intensity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardNicole S. Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 1/26/2021

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