Type 2 diabetes prevention is possible by adopting some healthy lifestyle habits and paying attention to specific preventable diabetes complications associated with the disease. Some steps for prevention include adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking diabetes medication , if needed. Many doctors recommend screening for type 2 diabetes at age 30 among people at risk, such as those with a family history of diabetes or who are overweight.
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First, certain diabetes risk factors like age, family history, and ethnicity cannot be changed. However, changing other risk factors by eating a healthier diet and increased physical activity -- with or without weight loss -- may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
In addition, if you have high blood pressure or are overweight, modifying lifestyle habits may help prevent type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can make specific recommendations that are right for you including diet changes and specific exercises. Medications to help you quit smoking, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure also help reduce the risk of complications.
A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that being overweight and obese was the single most important risk factor that predicted who would develop type 2 diabetes. During a 16 year follow-up period, study results showed that regular exercise -- at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week -- and an improved diet that's low in fat and high in fiber significantly helped with type 2 diabetes prevention. The bottom line: type 2 diabetes prevention could be as easy as adopting healthy lifestyle habits.
In another study, the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study Group, researchers tested the effects of weight loss, diet, and exercise on type 2 diabetes prevention in more than 500 people who were overweight and also had pre-diabetes or borderline diabetes with an impaired oral glucose tolerance test. They concluded that with changes geared at weight loss and improving physical activity levels, people at high risk of developing diabetes could reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by more than 50%.
Medication's Role in Diabetes Prevention
New research shows that medications may help prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes in people with impaired glucose tolerance -- and not just in controlling type 2 diabetes once you have it. There are several different studies that show that various types of diabetes drugs, along with a healthy lifestyle, can reduce the risk of developing diabetes in a high-risk person.
One clinical trial, called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), showed that people who have a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes (borderline diabetes or pre-diabetes) could reduce that risk by 31% when using the prescription diabetes drug Metformin alone 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 (specifically, nutrition and exercise counseling). 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 precedes diabetes if intervention is not done early.
National Diabetes Education Program: "Diabetes Prevention."
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC): "Diabetes Prevention Program."
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Fenton, J. Annals of Family Medicine, 2006; vol 4: p 32.
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