While there are several risk factors for type 2 diabetes that you cannot control, the good news is that you can reduce your risk substantially by maintaining a healthy body weight and keeping an active lifestyle. Even if a close relative has diabetes, or if you are a member of a high risk ethnic group, you can often prevent or at least forestall the onset of type 2 diabetes by living a healthy lifestyle and seeing your doctor regularly for diabetes screening.
Get screened regularly:
Everyone over 45 should have their blood glucose levels checked at least every 3 years. If you have any risk factors for diabetes, you should have your blood sugar checked more often, starting at a younger age. If you test as having prediabetes, a condition in which your fasting blood sugar level is between 100 - 125mg/dL (higher than normal but not high enough to be called type 2 diabetes) you should be tested every year and institute lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of diabetes.
Maintain a healthy weight:
A major preventable risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is carrying excess weight. The risk is highest if you carry the weight mostly around the middle of your body (having an "apple" shape). Excess fat appears to contribute directly to insulin resistance, though it is unclear exactly how this happens.
Carrying extra weight heightens your risk of developing several other diseases including heart disease and stroke. The body mass index or BMI is a general measure of how much excess weight one carries. Your BMI takes into account your height and weight; higher numbers mean you carry more fat. If your BMI is above 25 but below 30, you are considered overweight. If your BMI is between 30 and 39 you are considered obese, while a BMI 40 or above is considered extremely or morbidly obese.
The less active you are, the greater your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Exercising fewer than three times a week is considered a risk factor. Not only does physical activity help control weight, it also allows your body to use up blood sugar, makes your cells more sensitive to insulin, boosts your level of "good" cholesterol, and lowers blood pressure.
Commit to changing your lifestyle:
Change can be difficult, but if you are in a high risk category, changes in the way you live may be necessary to avoid diabetes. You can make it easier by making a specific plan for yourself with enumerated benchmarks for change. These goals can start out small, but over time you can have them build into large changes. Try to anticipate ahead of time the things that might cause you problems in reaching your goals and have a contingency plan in place. Seek support from family members, friends, or others that share your situation whenever necessary. Consult a doctor, nurse, counselor, or nutritionist for advice on how to stay on track. Finally, choose constructive ways to reward yourself for reaching goals, saving the largest rewards for the goals that are the toughest to attain.