Prevent Diabetes

6 Ways to Stop Diabetes Before It Starts

By , Caring.com senior editor
99% helpful
lose weight scale

The statistics speak for themselves: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 26 million Americans suffer from diabetes, and 7 million are unaware that they're afflicted. At the current rate, half of the adult U.S. population will develop prediabetes or diabetes by 2020. Of that total, the more-preventable type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases.

The good news: If you've received test results showing you have prediabetes, or you're concerned that you're at risk for diabetes, making lifestyle changes now can prevent or greatly delay the onset of diabetes. Studies have shown that such changes reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by as much as 71 percent in adults 60 years and older.

The key is preventing your blood glucose level from rising higher. Fasting blood glucose below 100 mg/dl is considered normal; if your fasting blood glucose is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, you have prediabetes. (If your blood sugar rises above 125 mg/dl, you're among the one in ten adults in North America who have type 2 diabetes.)

Prediabetes doesn't have to turn into diabetes. With early intervention, some people with prediabetes can actually turn back the clock and return elevated blood glucose levels to the normal range. Others can delay the onset of diabetes by 10 years or more. But once it sets in, diabetes is a lifelong disease. So now's the time to take steps to prevent diabetes from progressing. Here's what to do.

1. Peel off the pounds.

Getting to or maintaining a healthy weight is the number-one way to prevent the onset of diabetes, since extra weight makes it harder for the body to use insulin to control blood sugar. According to the expert panel of the American Diabetes Association, for those at high risk for diabetes and who are overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight through moderate exercise and healthy eating is the best way to treat prediabetes.

Instead of going on a severe diet, make minor changes that you can stick with over time. Make the calories you eat count in terms of packing a nutritional punch. For someone who weighs between 100 and 200 pounds, losing just 5 or 10 pounds can have a dramatic effect, so choose a realistic goal, give yourself plenty of time, and celebrate your success when you get there.

2. Focus on fiber.

Fiber is essential to preventing diabetes, because it takes your body longer to digest high-fiber foods. Read labels and count up grams of fiber, with a goal of eating 45 to 50 grams of fiber a day. For most people, eating a healthy breakfast that features oatmeal or some type of bran cereal is one way to achieve that high-fiber goal, since a bowl of the right kind of cereal can net you as much as a third of your daily fiber.

Keeping track of fiber content is also a handy way to distinguish between "bad" and "good" carbohydrates. With high-fiber (good) carbs, glucose is released slowly, preventing a typical blood sugar spike.

3. Count on coffee and tea.

In the past few years, researchers have uncovered a fascinating link between consumption of coffee and tea and lower rates of diabetes. The results of 18 different studies found that drinking three to four cups of coffee per day was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of diabetes than drinking no coffee or just one cup. Tea -- green or black -- was found to be beneficial as well. Drinking three to four cups of tea daily lowered risk of diabetes by 18 percent.