What is Diabetes and How Can You Prevent It?

We often hear about preventing type 2 diabetes, but what is it? Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body produces insulin from the pancreas but can’t use it, or can’t use it efficiently leading to a mismanagement of blood sugar levels. Prediabetes is the onset of your body’s ability to breakdown insulin effectively and is indicated by blood sugar levels that might be higher than normal. If lifestyle changes aren’t made early on during prediabetes, then the body might need extra support to breakdown insulin in the form of medications or other interventions. This often leads to the clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and involves checking blood sugar levels, adhering to a medication schedule and potentially taking insulin to supplement your body’s own levels.

Across the US population, type 2 diabetes is responsible for 90-95% of the cases in adults and children. And while 88 million are living with prediabetes — that’s 1 out 3 people — 84% don’t know they have it. Unfortunately, diabetes increases the risk for other conditions, including heart disease and stroke.

The good news is prediabetes and diabetes can be prevented or delayed. While family history and genetics play a role in prediabetes and type 2, the biggest factors of onset are being overweight or obese, and lifestyle behaviors. Luckily, intervention of the last two factors can often be enough to prevent or delay onset.

The most effective way to prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is to make sustainable lifestyle changes and maintain a healthy weight. Focus on these four lifestyle changes when preventing or delaying onset and reducing your risk for other chronic illnesses:

Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Seek support from your doctor to determine what a healthy weight for you is. Everyone’s weight is unique to them.
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
  • Eat a diet low in saturated fat and high in vegetables, beans, fruit, poultry, fish, and whole grains to maintain a healthy weight and prevent prediabetes and type 2
  • Find diabetes-friendly recipes and plan your meals for the week. Check out these resources for meal planning and healthy recipes.
  • Eat high-fiber foods such as oatmeal, 100% whole grain bread, fruits, vegetables and beans to help regulate blood sugar
  • Add other blood sugar-regulating foods, herbs and spices to your diet including cinnamon, rosemary, ginger, green tea, cranberries and blueberries
  • Check in with the YMCA nutritionists for healthy eating and lifestyle management tips through 1:1 consultations, cooking demos and monthly nutrition talks.
Be Active Daily
  • Engage in daily physical activity. Take a 30-minute brisk walk 5 times a week, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a distance from the grocery store and incorporate strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week. Always be sure to consult your medical care provider before starting an exercise program.
Know Your Health Numbers
  • Have your medical care provider screen you for prediabetes and diabetes. Prediabetes can be a silent threat to your health. The sooner you improve your blood sugar, the less damage will occur to your body.
Get Support to Improve Your Health


Sara Sanders RN, BSN

References: 1. Lipinski E. Digestive Wellness: strengthen the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion, 4th edition. 2012. New York. Mcgraw Hill. 2. Sizer F. Whitney E. Nutrition concepts and controversies, fourteenth edition. 2017. Boston, MA. Cengage Learning.