Is Type 2 Diabetes Preventable?

The Current Stats

Chances are, you know someone who has type 2 diabetes, or is at an increased risk of developing the disease.

Today, it is estimated that over 30 million American adults have diabetes (90-95% have type 2 and 5-10% have type 1), and another 80 million (that’s 1 out of every 4 people over 18!) have what is called prediabetes, a condition that puts them at increased risk of developing type 2.

In fact, type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing chronic diseases worldwide and, if not well cared for, can lead to serious medical complications such as eye, kidney and heart disease.

The Good News

If you have type 2, you can avoid or significantly reduce the risk of developing complications by controlling your glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And, if you have prediabetes, studies have shown there are ways to significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2.

How Do You Know If You Are at Increased Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes?

There are a number of factors that may put you at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include:

  • Being overweight or physically inactive
  • Your age (there’s a higher risk with increasing age)
  • High blood pressure (generally anything over 130/80)
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels (ideally LDL should be below 100, triglycerides below 200 and HDL above 40)
  • Immediate family members with type 2 diabetes
  • Having had gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes
  • Being of a certain ethnic group (Latino, African American, Native American, Pacific Islander, Asian American)
  • Blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to classify you as having diabetes (for example, fasting morning blood sugars between 100-126)

The American Diabetes Association recommends that your healthcare provider screen you for type 2 diabetes or prediabetes with a blood glucose or A1c test if you are overweight and have any of the risk factors mentioned above, or starting at age 45. If the test shows that you do not have diabetes, it should be repeated every 1-3 years, depending on the results of the initial test and your risk factors.

A fast and simple type 2 risk test developed by the American Diabetes Association can be found online here. By answering a few simple questions, it helps inform you of your risk of type 2 diabetes. You should discuss your risk test results with your healthcare provider, who may then check you for diabetes or prediabetes with a blood test.

If You Have Prediabetes, What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Type 2?

As mentioned above, if you have prediabetes, there are definitely actions you can take to significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2. Most important on the to-do list are healthy eating and increased physical activity.

Here are a few quick tips on eating healthy:

  • Eat more leafy greens like romaine, kale, spinach, collards and chard
  • Choose lean proteins like fish, chicken and pork
  • Fill up with fiber (fiber can be found in delicious foods – did you know raspberries are one of the highest fiber fruits around?)
  • Try to drink eight 8oz glasses of water every day and avoid sodas and sugary juices
  • Experiment with lower carb grains that also contain fiber and protein such as quinoa
  • Indulge in health fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, dark chocolate, and fatty fish
  • Cut back on salt and salty foods
  • Pay attention to portion sizes
  • Try to fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies
  • Don’t bring home what you can’t control!
  • Reduce your overall intake of sugar and carbs

Even more tips and resources on eating healthy can be found in the 5th edition of Dr. Edelman’s book Taking Control of Your Diabetes (you can get it here).

Several research studies in people with prediabetes have shown that losing 5-10% of their body weight (about 10-20 pounds in someone weighing 200 pounds), maintaining a healthy diet, and getting about 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity (like brisk walking) can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by almost 60%!  Also, depending on your risk and other factors, your healthcare provider may recommend starting a medication to help reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Your individual diabetes prevention plan should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

In a Nutshell…

Since prediabetes is so common and its progression to type 2 is preventable, it is very important to find out if you have prediabetes. If you do, you should discuss a diabetes prevention plan with your healthcare provider – which will include a healthy diet, increased physical activity, and achieving a healthy weight. Most importantly, this plan will also help improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of heart disease, and will likely have many other benefits as well!


Additional Resources:

Prediabetes: It’s Not Too Late for an About-Face!

Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Reversed?

Don’t Freak Out! 10 Things to Know If You’ve Been Diagnosed with Type 2

Medications and Other Treatment Options to Reduce Complications from Type 2 Diabetes

What Is Insulin Resistance and How Do You Know If You Have It?

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    Thank you very much for the Information, much Apreciatted

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    Thank you so much I feel a lot better knowing I can control this before it becomes a problem.

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    So what is the best A1C target????

    • If you have diabetes, your first goal should be less than 7.5, and if you can get lower WITHOUT HYPOGLYCEMIA that’s fine.

      For pre diabetes..less than 5.7

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    sometimes you need a wak-up call in your life before you fall off the deep end. Some good advice here, now I need to get serious. I could eat what I wanted when I was young, Now I need to eat smart to live. Thank-you everything helps, now it’s up to me.

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    How many carbohydrates a day does a diabetic need?

    • Everyone is different and it depends on your body weight. A very reasonable amount is 30 to 50 grams per meal for adults. Once again, it is like adult Depends!

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    can on publish parts of this document in my parish bulletin. I will give credit to the author. This is a weekly parish bulletin under Parish Heath Ministry. I am a parish nurse.

  7. What is A1C my Doc last time I saw him my A1C was 8.5. I have no idea what he talking about. They write the result of my blood sugar and A1C? on my discharge papers. I Keep forgetting to ask him what it means. I look up A1C on the internet now I’m more confused then I was before.
    signed HELP!

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      The A1c test gives you a picture of your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. You can find more info here: You definitely should discuss your test results with your doctor.

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    I’m doin this for a school project, I hope y’all can live healthier land better lives with your newly found help

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      Very much appreciated, Nathan. I hope we’ll be able to live healthier lives too.

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    I am totally confused. I am 69 an my doctor said my A1C is 5.9 pre-diabetic. Well I walk 5 x week for 2 and 1/2 miles, I hate sugar and any sweets what is causing this??

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