Even if you’re at increased risk of type 2 diabetes – due to a hereditary link or having gestational diabetes – there are things you can do to help minimise the chances of developing the condition. The “most important” lifestyle change you can make, according to the Global Diabetes Community, is altering your diet. “Cutting out sugary food and drink, and refined grains – such as white bread and white rice – is a good first step,” the community said.
Any BMI of 25 or over is considered “overweight”; you can lower your BMI through a combination of diet and exercise.
The NIH recommends people who want to prevent type 2 diabetes to do “at least 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week”.
This can help you to lose weight and to keep it off, which can delay the development of type 2 diabetes.
The Global Diabetes Community stated: “Exercise can help to prevent diabetes in a number of ways.”
The American Diabetes Association explained: “When your muscles contract during activity, your cells are able to take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not.”
This means that the level of glucose in the blood (i.e. blood sugar) decreases.
Exercise also increases insulin sensitivity, meaning the body’s cells are better able to use available insulin to absorb glucose.
To explain, insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when blood sugar levels increase.
Insulin is the key that enables glucose to be absorbed from the blood into the body’s cells to be used as fuel.
“The effect physical activity has on your blood sugar will vary depending on how long you are active and many other factors,” said the American Diabetes Association.
“Physical activity can lower your blood sugar up to 24 hours or more after your workout by making your body more sensitive to insulin.”
The charity Diabetes UK stated “lifestyle interventions – including diet, physical activity and sustained weight loss – can be effective in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 50 percent”.
Dietary swaps to prevent type 2 diabetes
Choose wholegrain carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, wholemeal flour, and wholegrain bread.
Other healthy sources of carbohydrates include fruit and vegetables, chickpeas, beans, lentils, and unsweetened yoghurt and milk.
It’s important to “cut down on red and processed meat”, such as:
Instead, opt for oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, which are rich in omega-3.