Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks your cells and destroys your ability to produce insulin. Without enough insulin to convert the sugar in your blood into energy that your cells can use, the sugar stays in your bloodstream and wreaks havoc throughout your body. Although it’s manageable, Type 1 diabetes isn’t preventable.
Type 2 diabetes is another story.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when your pancreas has trouble producing adequate supplies of insulin or your body becomes resistant to insulin. Although genes and age play a role in Type 2 diabetes, and there’s nothing you can do to control those factors, there’s a lot you can do to delay the onset of diabetes, slow its progression, and even avoid it altogether.
At The Endocrine Center in Houston, Texas, our specialists help people deal with diabetes in all of its forms — including the stage before an official diagnosis: prediabetes. Anyone considered at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes should learn about the disease and take steps to prevent it.
Are you at risk for Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes develops slowly over time and is most common in people who are overweight or obese. The development usually starts with insulin resistance, in which your muscles, liver, and fat cells don’t use insulin well.
When your cells resist insulin, they can't absorb glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels. Over time, your pancreas, which produces insulin, can't keep up with the increased demand, leading to Type 2 diabetes.
While being overweight is the most significant risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, other factors come into play as well, such as:
- Age: 45 or older
- Family history: diabetes runs in families
- Race: African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans have a higher risk
The good news is that you’re not powerless against this type of diabetes.
Prevention strategies for avoiding Type 2 diabetes
Here are some steps you can take today to reduce your risk of developing diabetes:
Maintain a healthy weight
If you're overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce your risk. Use the diabetes risk management calculator from the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases to understand your risk level. Studies show that losing 5%-7% of your body weight may reduce your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Eat a balanced diet
Everything you eat affects your metabolism and insulin production. For example, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help manage your blood sugar levels and weight, while processed, fried, and high-carb foods can spike your blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain. Even the time of day you consume meals makes a difference.
Regular physical activity not only helps control your weight, but it can also ward off insulin resistance. Studies show that regular exercise increases your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, so you need less to maintain a safe level in your bloodstream.
Smoking increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by up to 40%. First, the chemicals in cigarettes damage your cells; second, smoking creates overall inflammation throughout your body, disrupting the effect of insulin; and third, smoking generates oxidative stress, contributing to the development of diabetes.
Quitting smoking and stopping the use of all tobacco products puts you in a much better position to prevent diabetes.
Prediabetes isn’t diabetes per se, but it’s the precursor to the disease and a warning sign that you shouldn’t ignore. If your blood sugar levels are too high but haven’t yet crossed the line into full-fledged Type 2 diabetes, you have an excellent opportunity to hit the brakes on the disease.
Regular checkups with The Endocrine Center team or your primary care physician can help you monitor your blood sugar and identify steps to lower it when necessary.
Don’t wait for Type 2 diabetes to control your life — take preventive steps now and avoid the problem before it develops. Schedule an appointment online or by phone to talk with our diabetes specialists about your risk level and how to avoid Type 2 diabetes.