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Type 2 diabetes prevention

Diabetes consists of a number of conditions (type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes) that involve problems with the hormone insulin. Although not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, obesity and lack of physical exercise are two of the most common causes of this form of diabetes.

Being overweight or obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher increases a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, reducing body weight by about 5% along with regular exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes by more than 50%.

With some extra care and attention, you may be able to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Health risk factors for type 2 diabetes

There are some things that increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes that you can do something about - and others that you can't

Type 2 diabetes is believed to have a strong genetic link, meaning that it tends to run in families. Several genes are being studied that may be related to the cause of type 2 diabetes. If you have any of the following type 2 diabetes risk factors, it’s important to ask your doctor about a diabetes test.

Other type 2 diabetes risk factors include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood triglyceride (fat) levels
  • Gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 10 pounds
  • High-fat diet
  • High alcohol intake
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Ethnicity: African-Caribbean or south Asian people who live in the UK are at least five times more likely to have diabetes than the white population.
  • Ageing: Increasing age is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes begins to rise significantly at about 45 years, and increases considerably after 65.

The role of medication in diabetes prevention

Research shows that medication may help prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes in people with impaired glucose tolerance. This is as well as controlling type 2 diabetes once you have it. Studies show that various types of diabetes medications, along with a healthy lifestyle, can reduce the risk of developing diabetes in a high-risk person.

One clinical trial, the Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP), conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US, threw up some interesting findings. It showed that people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes (borderline diabetes or pre-diabetes) could reduce that risk by 31% by using just the prescription diabetes drug metformin along with lifestyle and diet changes. While this is significant, the NIH study also showed that the risk of diabetes could be reduced even further - by 58% - through intensive lifestyle changes alone, namely changes in diet and exercise regimes. Participants in the study had blood sugar levels that were higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes. This health condition, called pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), often leads to diabetes if intervention is not done early.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 13, 2017

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