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Diabetes health centre

Diabetes - Reduce your diabetes risk

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There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 2 is the most common and is often linked to being overweight. That means there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it.

Type 1 diabetes is not linked to being overweight. The cells that produce insulin in the body are damaged for reasons that aren't yet fully understood. There are no lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of type 1 diabetes.

However, around 90% of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 2. If you maintain a healthy weight, you can reduce your risk of developing the condition.

If you think that you may already have diabetes, see your GP. You can learn about the symptoms of diabetes in diabetes: the facts.

Diabetes and your weight

If you are overweight, you're at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. New BMI advice was issued in July 2013 by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to south Asian and Chinese adults, who have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than white populations. These groups are advised to maintain a BMI lower than the standard 25.

The advice is:

  • Asians with a BMI score of 23 or more are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 
  • Asians with a BMI of 27.5 or more are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Although the evidence is less clear-cut, black people and other minority groups are also advised to maintain a BMI below 25 to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.

You can find out if you're a healthy weight by calculating your body mass index (BMI) using our healthy weight calculator

BMI isn't the only important measurement, your waist measurement may also indicate that you're carrying extra body fat and are therefore at risk.

  • For all women, a waist measurement of more than 80cm (31.5 inches) indicates an increased risk.
  • For white or black men, a waist measurement of more than 94cm (37 inches) indicates an increased risk.
  • For Asian men, a waist measurement of more than 90cm (35 inches) indicates an increased risk.

If you lose excess weight, you'll lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet and physical activity are the key to a healthy weight, but that doesn't have to mean going on a strict diet and spending hours at the gym. 

To learn more about losing weight, see the lose weight section.

There's information on a healthy, balanced diet in food and diet.

Other risk factors

A number of other factors can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, most of which are things that we can't control.

The risk factors include:

  • being over 40, or over 25 if you're black or Asian
  • having a close family member (parent, brother or sister) who has type 2 diabetes
  • being south Asian or African-Caribbean, these ethnic groups are five times more likely to get type 2 diabetes
  • having  polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), especially if you're also overweight
  • having had  gestational diabetes (diabetes that lasts for the duration of a pregnancy)
  • having impaired fasting glycaemia or impaired glucose tolerance

If any of these risk factors apply to you, you should maintain a healthy weight to ensure that your risk of diabetes doesn't increase further.

Medical Review: October 08, 2012

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