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Though type 2 diabetes can develop at any age, the condition most often occurs in middle-aged and older people. People with a family history of diabetes, who are overweight, or have obesity are more at risk of developing the disease. Health problems such as high blood pressure and prediabetes can also increase the risk.
If you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes, you can take steps to stop the onset of the disease. These include modifying your diet, becoming more active, stopping smoking, getting enough sleep, and improving vitamin D levels. 
In this article, you will learn more about type 2 diabetes and how to prevent the onset of the disease through a variety of lifestyle modifications.
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Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease caused by the inability of the body’s tissues to respond to insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone used by the body to turn sugar into energy. A disruption in the way the body uses insulin can cause high blood sugar.
People with type 2 diabetes have elevated levels of blood sugar that when left untreated can cause problems such as heart, eye, kidney, and nerve damage.
Prediabetes is exactly what it sounds like—a precursor to developing diabetes. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
Left unchecked, people with prediabetes can go on to develop diabetes. Prediabetes occurs in people who have insulin resistance—meaning the body doesn’t use the insulin properly.
Risk factors for prediabetes include a family history of the disease, being overweight or having obesity, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and having other health conditions such as high blood pressure or metabolic syndrome (which is characterized by high cholesterol, a large waist size, and high blood pressure).
Diet plays an important role in your health, especially when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes. Diet and a sedentary lifestyle are two of the main contributors to the development of type 2 diabetes that can be controlled.
Paying attention to your diet and making simple changes can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes, prevent complications from diabetes, and improve your quality of life.
While carbohydrates are a necessary part of every diet, choosing certain carbohydrates can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Low glycemic carbohydrates such as lentils and beans aid in keeping blood sugar levels steady (they do not swiftly raise blood sugar levels after eating them). High glycemic carbohydrates such as white bread and cake can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels and insulin resistance (they raise blood sugar levels faster after eating them).
To make smart carbohydrate choices, try swapping lots of non-starchy vegetables (such as lettuce, cucumber, and broccoli) and moderate amounts of fruits and legumes for processed and sugary foods such as soda and cookies.
Eating a high-fiber diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Cereal fibers, such as psyllium husk, were shown to have the greatest effect. High-fiber foods are beneficial to people who may be at risk for type 2 diabetes as they help control blood sugar levels.
Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils. It is recommended to consume around 25–38 grams of fiber daily.
Fats are another important part of your daily diet. Choosing healthy fats can have a positive effect on overall health. Foods high in saturated fats such as butter and lard should be avoided and foods high in polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados should replace them.
While there is evidence that a reduced carbohydrate diet can reverse type 2 diabetes, dietary recommendations for type 2 diabetes should be made under your healthcare provider’s guidance. Everyone’s dietary recommendations are different depending on their body.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan may benefit people with diabetes. It helps control pressure, improves cholesterol levels, and improves insulin resistance.
DASH aims to lower the intake of sodium, saturated fat, total fat, and carbohydrates through calorie control, enjoying fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, and limiting sweets and fat.
A paleolithic (paleo) diet eliminates processed foods, refined sugar, processed oils, salt, grains, legumes, and dairy. How it might benefit people with type 2 diabetes is still being studied.

Swapping carbs, adding fiber, and choosing healthy fats are good ways to change your diet to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Changing the way you prepare your food can also make a difference.
If making big changes to your diet seems overwhelming at first, one small step you can take is to reduce your portion sizes. Reducing your portion sizes leads to a reduction in calories. This, in turn, could lead to weight loss, which could reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
When you focus on fresh whole ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, you leave less room on your plate for highly processed foods like prepackaged cookies and chips.
When planning a meal, try filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with carbohydrates like beans or lentils, and the other quarter with a protein like fish or chicken.
Cooking at home gives you control over what’s in your meals. It’s easier to monitor portion sizes and the types of fats you use to cook. When you cook for yourself, you can focus on using fresh ingredients and ensure that you eat plenty of whole foods.  
If you smoke, it is important to take steps to stop. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is 30% to 40% higher in people who smoke than in those who don’t. If you have trouble quitting, talk to a healthcare provider to find out ways to quit.
Regular physical activity has been shown to help with overall health and prevent type 2 diabetes—lowering blood sugar levels and blood pressure and helping to control weight.
Leading an active lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym for hours on end. One of the easiest ways to add more activity to your life is to start walking. You can make walking part of your everyday activities.
Try parking farther away from the entrance when you go to the grocery store. Take the stairs at work. Increasing activity by making small choices can add up over time.
Sleep is important for preventing type 2 diabetes. It is important to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Poor sleep can lead to prediabetes, insulin resistance, and elevated blood sugar levels.
Adjustments you can make to help you get adequate sleep include:
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D, and you can also absorb vitamin D from food. While studies are ongoing into the effects of vitamin D levels in preventing type 2 diabetes, some studies have made this connection, although more research is needed.
Soaking in the vitamin D by getting outside to increase sun exposure will increase vitamin D levels and may help prevent type 2 diabetes. To add more activity and vitamin D, try taking a short walk in the morning sun before starting your day.
People with a family history of type 2 diabetes who are overweight or have obesity are more at risk for type 2 diabetes. If you are at risk for diabetes, there are things you can do to help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Changing your diet, such as swapping sugary carbs for low glycemic carbs, adding more fiber, and eating healthier fats, can help. Eating smaller portions, cooking at home, and focusing on fresh ingredients can also benefit in preventing type 2 diabetes.
You can also help prevent type 2 diabetes by quitting smoking, adding more activity to your daily life, getting enough sleep, and soaking up adequate amounts of vitamin D.
While lifestyle changes you can make to prevent type 2 diabetes can feel overwhelming, it’s important to understand that these changes are doable. If you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you do not have to take all these steps alone. Talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns and ask questions.
They may put you in contact with a diabetes educator, or registered dietitian who can help you manage lifestyle factors like diet and activity.
While increasing the amount of daily exercise will help prevent diabetes, one study found that walking briskly for 150 minutes per week significantly lowered the risk of developing diabetes.
Whole and unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are all important parts of a diet to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with bariatric surgery, low-carbohydrate diets, and low-calorie diets.
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