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Diabetes Prevention: Four Changes Can Cut Your Risk in Half

The odds of developing type 2 diabetes are determined partly by genes and partly by lifestyle. Making some simple healthy choices now may help prevent the disease, even if you already have prediabetes.

Are You At Risk?

The following are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The more of these that apply to you, the more likely that you are at risk for diabetes.

  • Age 45 or older
  • Overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) or obese (BMI of 30 or higher)
  • Parent, brother or sister with diabetes
  • Alaska Native, American Indian, African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American or Pacific Islander heritage
  • Female with a history of gestational diabetes or had a baby heavier than 9 pounds at birth
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher)
  • HDL cholesterol lower than 35 mg/dl or triglycerides higher than 250 mg/dl
  • Exercise fewer than three times a week
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • History of heart or blood vessel disease
  • Prediabetes (blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes)

Four Changes You Can Make Today

You can cut your risk by more than half with modest lifestyle changes. For example, losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight if you are overweight can cut diabetes risk by nearly 60 percent. Making these four changes can help you stay healthy and may even help reverse prediabetes:

  1. Choose foods wisely. Create meals that feature vegetables and whole grains. Cut back on total fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt and refined grains.
  2. Move your body. Exercise helps your body use insulin, and it burns calories, which helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Be active for at least 30 minutes most days.
  3. Eat smaller portions. This helps control your weight by reducing your calorie intake. Need help cutting back on how much you eat? Ten minutes before your meal, drink a glass of water to help you feel full on less food.
  4. Ask for help. High blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL, or "good" cholesterol, contribute to diabetes risk. So do smoking, depression and too little or too much sleep. Ask your doctor for help with these issues.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases   , National Diabetes Education Program, National Institutes of Health , American Diabetes Association