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Diabetes Prevention: Can It Be Done?

June 15, 2023

Diabetes, a prevalent health issue affecting millions globally, raises an important question: Can it be prevented? While certain types of diabetes are not preventable due to genetic and other factors, there is good news regarding Type 2 diabetes.

Yes, you can take steps to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes, especially if diagnosed with prediabetes. This involves lifestyle modifications like eating balanced meals, regular physical activity, weight management, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

We'll discuss the different types of diabetes, focusing on prevention strategies for Type 2 diabetes, and identifying risk factors to help you take proactive measures for a healthier future.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that negatively impacts how your body converts food into energy.

When you eat, your body transforms most of your food into glucose (sugar). Your body then releases the glucose into your bloodstream. As your blood sugar rises, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin , which converts the glucose into energy for the rest of your body.

However, people with diabetes have trouble converting glucose into insulin. Instead, excess sugar becomes trapped in the bloodstream. Over time, this bottleneck effect can cause serious cardiovascular diseases, kidney problems, nerve damage, and even vision and hearing loss.

There are three distinct forms of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

According to the CDC, 5-10% of people with diabetes have what is called Type 1 diabetes. 

That is, they have an autoimmune disorder that essentially attacks their body, preventing their pancreas from making any insulin whatsoever. People with this condition cannot survive without daily insulin shots and are usually diagnosed at an early age, as Type 1 diabetes is often genetic.

That means, Type 1 diabetes is generally not preventable.

Type 2 Diabetes

However, the vast majority of people with diabetes have a version of diabetes (Type 2) that IS preventable – or can at least be delayed – with healthy lifestyle changes.

Type 2 diabetes develops over time as the body is trained to resist insulin. With excessive sugar in the bloodstream, the body gradually becomes less effective at turning glucose into insulin. Such cases often emerge as a result of unhealthy eating and an inactive lifestyle.

Gestational Diabetes

There is yet another form of diabetes that arises only for pregnant women. During pregnancy, women experience hormonal changes that often result in weight gain – which can, in turn, lead to insulin resistance. 

Gestational diabetes generally goes away after the birth of the baby. But it can negatively impact the child’s health and increase the mother’s likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

The best way to prevent gestational diabetes is to develop healthy habits and lose excess weight prior to pregnancy.


Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

While there is currently no prevention method for Type 1 diabetes, you CAN take steps to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes.

What is Prediabetes? 

More often than not, people receive a diagnosis of Prediabetes (or high blood sugar) before they are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This means that their blood sugar is high, but not yet high enough to fall into the Type 2 diabetes category.

This early diagnosis acts as a warning, giving the patient a chance to turn the other way and modify their lifestyle before it’s too late.

How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

If you are prediabetic, there are measures you can take to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes:

  • Eat more balanced meals – Don’t jump into any sort of fad diet (like paleo or keto). Instead, identify healthy foods you enjoy eating, make a reasonable nutrition plan, and monitor your portion sizes. And, of course, avoid sweets and processed foods.

  • Prioritize regular physical activity – Pick a form of physical activity that you actually enjoy and pace yourself. The quickest way to get burnt out on an exercise routine is to bite off more than you can chew. Work with your primary care team to set realistic physical goals. 

  • Lose excess weight and body fat – Even losing 5% of your body weight can help reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes. Talk to your care team about a reasonable weight loss goal and timeline and commit to taking the necessary steps to get there.

  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol – Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can also contribute to insulin resistance.

  • Don’t neglect your mental health – High stress, anxiety, and depression often lead to a more sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle.

  • Develop a health support system – Accountability and encouragement are essential when trying to fend off Type 2 diabetes. Ask a friend or family member to be your accountability buddy. Work closely with your MOFMC care team to monitor your progress.


Am I at risk for Type 2 Diabetes?

You may have a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes if you…

  • Have been diagnosed with Prediabetes

  • Are overweight or obese

  • Are physically active less than 3 times a week

  • Suffer from depression

  • Are older than 45

  • Have a family history of Type 2 diabetes

  • Have a personal or family history of heart disease or stroke

  • Are African American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

  • Have bad cholesterol or high blood pressure

  • Smoke and/or drink high volumes of alcohol

  • Have had gestational diabetes

  • Have given birth to a baby weighing over 9 pounds

  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)


Mount Olive Family Medicine Center | Preventative Health

Preventing Type 2 diabetes is possible but NOT easy by any means. However, you don’t need to walk along your health journey all on your own. Your care team at Mount Olive Family Medicine Center is here to help!

Think you may be at risk for Type 2 diabetes? Come see your MOFMC care team right away! Call us at 919-658-4954 to schedule a check-up.


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