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How to Prevent Diabetes

Learning how to prevent diabetes can keep you from joining the nearly 26 million Americans who already suffer from the disease. Many people with diabetes are unaware that they even have it in the early stages, so it's important to talk to your doctor if you have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, or experience any of the following symptoms of diabetes:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst or hunger
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Exhaustion
  • Sudden vision changes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease characterized by elevated blood glucose levels. People with diabetes do not show a normal response to their body's natural insulin, resulting in a buildup of sugar in the blood. Once diabetes sets in, many people require lifelong oral medications and injectable insulin to manage their blood sugar. Untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health complications such as heart failure, kidney failure,blindness, and even death.

What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?

Individuals with a genetic predisposition to diabetes are at a greater risk for developing the disease, as are elderly people, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians. Obesity and physical inactivity are also known risk factors.

How to Prevent Diabetes

Millions of people are already at high risk for developing diabetes. Making these changes now can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes before it can progress.

Lose Weight

Losing excess body weight is the single most effective method of prevention. Dropping just a few extra pounds can make all the difference. Moderate daily exercise and a reduced-calorie diet are the simplest ways to keep the weight off long-term.

Drink Coffee or Tea

Good news for coffee and tea drinkers: Studies show that plant-based nutrients found in both of these beverages can significantly reduce your risk of diabetes. Three to four cups per day of coffee or tea (regular or decaffeinated) showed the greatest positive effects on blood sugar levels.


Physical exercise, besides just controlling weight, can help prevent diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity. Even one exercise session per week is beneficial, though a long-term program that includes both aerobic activity and weight training provides the greatest protection against diabetes.

Eat Right

A heart-healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, will help regulate your blood sugar and maintain an ideal cholesterol level. Eat smaller meals throughout the day to avoid blood sugar spikes.

Diabetes and Alcohol

Get Checked

Schedule routine visits with your doctor to discuss other risk factors for developing diabetes, such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. This is especially important if you are in one of the high-risk groups mentioned earlier. 

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Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH

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