Study Shows 5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 90%


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that the majority of new cases of diabetes in those over 65 could be prevented by modest changes in lifestyle. We've always known that type 2 diabetes is a disease that can largely be prevented by doing things like eating right and exercising regularly. But this study demonstrates that there are 5 lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk by as much as 90%.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, type 2 diabetes affects 24 million Americans, many of them being older adults. This study tracked participants over a period of 10 years and collected data through questionnaires and physical exams. From there they were grouped into a high-risk or low-risk group based on each factor. The lifestyle factors that were examined in the study included physical activity, diet, smoking habits, alcohol use, and amount of body fat. Researchers found that the risk of diabetes was 35 percent lower for each one additional lifestyle factor in the low-risk group. That means that you don't have to be perfect in every area to reap the benefits- even small changes can positively affect your risk.

Participants were only divided into 2 groups, so someone who did any kind of physical activity, for example, would have been in the low risk group. It doesn't mean they spent hours at the gym compared to the high risk participants, but could just mean they took light walks on a regular basis compared to someone who did no exercise. Again, this is reinforcement that small changes can make a big difference.

Here's a recap of the 5 changes you can make today to significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

1. Physical activity- Something is better than nothing. You don't have to be a gym rat to reap the benefits of regular exercise.
2. Diet- Make sure you're getting enough fiber and healthy fat in your diet. Limit your consumption of processed foods and sweets.
3. Smoking- Don't start, but if you are a smoker, work on quitting today.
4. Alcohol use- Aim for less than 2 alcoholic drinks per day.
5. Body fat- Work on getting your BMI into the healthy range and a healthy waist-to-hip ratio.

What do you think? Are you surprised that these changes could have such significant results?

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    Well, I am the youngest of 5 children. My oldest brother now has diabetes. I am loving this lifestyle change that spark has introduced to me. I am working on changing all my unhealthy ways!! Great article. - 10/15/2010   12:18:59 PM
    All good things, but I wouldn't call #5 an "easy" step. Isn't that what most of us on SP are struggling with? I've lost 40 pounds over the last 16 months and am very close to "normal" BMI but my waist circumference is still too high. - 9/19/2010   9:12:03 AM
  • 74
    I will definately be sharing this with my mom today Thank You - 8/6/2010   12:50:33 PM
  • WALL-E2
    I was rather shocked to learn that I was pre-diabetic a couple of years ago.
    It does not run in my family. Cancer does.
    It was the incentive from my Dr. to get back to the gym & force me to lose a bit of weight and it was from him it was advised.
    I manage to keep my sugar levels within the acceptable range.
    I agree that the information is excellent for those all, not just diabetics or pre-diabetics. Common sense life style changes. - 6/14/2010   8:00:05 AM
  • 72
    I have type 1 and come from a family of it! - 6/7/2010   9:34:41 PM
  • 71
    My husband has been borderline Diabetic for 7 years, just after having surgery for bladder cancer. I have had him on PGX for about 6 months and his sugar was down in the normal range at his last doctors appointment. His cholesterol was also down within acceptable range. His doctor keeps trying to put him on Lipator, but I won't let him take them. - 6/7/2010   7:52:31 PM
  • LAURA9021
    My husband has type 2 diabetes and since he has cut down on processed foods and started regularly exercising his #s have dropped dramatically. He may never get off his meds because of his family history, but he is doing all he can to try! - 4/4/2010   10:08:50 AM
  • 69
    Diabetes is so scary. Knowing that there are more factors that I can control is empowering. - 2/10/2010   10:33:17 AM
    I believe that changes do make difference to your health. That is the main reason i joined sp last January and have had great results. My cholesterol improved enough to be taken off medication, and my blood pressure in now at a normal range. Since type 2 diabetes runs on both side of my family i wanted to do something to reduce my risk. - 1/13/2010   9:48:40 AM
  • 67
    As Dr Mike Roizen says on You The Owner's Manual Radio Show ( "we affect our genes" by how we eat and move. - 11/15/2009   3:48:04 AM
  • 66
    Great information!
    THANKS! - 10/18/2009   11:06:46 PM
  • FOREN83
    I have diabetes and exercise with an healthy nutrition is the key to live better.

    Here some nice quotes I've found realistic on my dietary patterns from:

    "Another key element in diet is soluble fiber, which is present in many foods. One example of this is cooked kidney beans. Soluble fiber plays a big role in preventing the road absorption of glucose by your body, thus minimizing the harmful effects of eating sugary or sweet foods or anything that will increase your sugar levels. There are also what is called insoluble fibers, which do not directly affect your diabetes, but contribute to you having much cleaner intestines, especially in the lower intestinal track."

    hope it helps - 10/11/2009   6:33:06 AM
  • 64
    I'm another borderline diabetic. Seems there is a cluster of us. - 9/2/2009   7:01:17 AM
  • 63
    Surprized? No way. This has been the "message" for years. Type 2 Diabetes, while hereditary in a minority of cases, seems to be a disease our overweight society has brought upon themselves. I don't have it, but enough of my older overweight friends do and it is a small part of what motivates me to stick with SP and get the weight off for good. - 7/1/2009   5:43:31 PM
  • 62
    Having my blood sugar tested this year was a real wake up call for me! That's when I decided to get serious about weight loss/exercise and why I joined Spark People - thank goodness for this web site! - 5/31/2009   7:34:30 PM
  • 61
    I joined TOPS four years ago because I was 40 pounds overweight and Type II diabetes runs in my family. An ounce of prevention and all that. - 5/23/2009   6:07:07 PM
  • 60
    I did know that change in diet an some workout would make a difference. I am doing this to help me avoid being a diabetic since I have a family history of diabetes. So far I have changed what I normally eat and limit sweet treats dramatically, workout on a regular basis unless I am sick, also drink more water now that I am on Spark. Woo Hoo what a change it has made so far. I have inspired people where I work to get into a more healthy habit too!! - 5/19/2009   2:31:17 PM
  • 59
    This is also why I joined. I am borderline Diabetic. I certainly don't want to be on meds for my life. I have chosen the healthy way out! Food and Exercise. I was not always like this, nor will I be like this forever. - 5/17/2009   10:19:32 PM
  • 58
    I actually had been a borderline diabetic for a lot of years. It was when I lost 35 pounds in one year (very slowly by changing to a better diet) that I became an actual diabetic. My doctor, at the time, put me on a series of pills to control it. Over the years, I had to keep switching medications in order to control my blood sugar numbers. Last year, my new doctor (old one retired) told me that my diabetes was not under good control despite all of the pills I was taking. She put me on Metformin and insulin with Actos every evening, and, finally, at my last check-up, my numbers were down to a normal range. It took almost a full year of constant regulation to get me here, but now I'm hopeful that if I can take off the weight, I'll start losing medications. - 5/15/2009   1:22:01 PM
    I was diagnosed as DM II back in August 2007 with a BGL of (somewhere over the rainbow). I was put on fast and slow insulin. Although, I was not advised to do this, I began eating cheese, lots of it. I was morbidly obese before I was diagnosed and then found myself at a whole new level. In April 2008 I went on a self-imposed diet of restricted caloric intake (whatever/day). Within a week, on the diet, I started noticing low blood sugar symptoms and began dialing back the 24 hour. Within two weeks, I was entirely off any medication and have had normal BGLs ever since.

    Fortunately, all I had to do was give my body a chance and it regulated itself very quickly.

    - 5/15/2009   6:32:18 AM
  • 56
    Following the recommendations list in this blog; will deter most adult onset diseases that are a direct result of lifestyle choices. I, for one; know first hand that diet and exercise can keep DM Type 2 at bay. - 5/14/2009   2:25:46 PM
  • 55
    THE manslayer comments are offensive after all if we all arrived we would not be here. Now this goo info. I was diagnosed 7 years and must started out on meds. So the battle is on.!!! - 5/14/2009   1:47:47 PM
  • 54
    My reason for joing SP is that I was told I needed meds to control diabetes. I told the dr. that I would try the diet and exercise route my opinion that is what she should have suggested before meds.....but whatever.........SP has kept my weight and sugar thank you very much!!!!!!!1 - 5/14/2009   8:02:53 AM
  • 53
    With family members who have diabetis, I find this very interesting and motivational. I try to keep myself in good shape and away from these dangers. Luckily, I quit smoking, don't drink, exercise more and try to be mindful of what I eat. I have heart problems, so I have to be careful. - 5/14/2009   1:25:32 AM
    Okay I was wrong. It's not the fat peoples' disease. I've read some comments here and obviously anyone could get it. - 5/13/2009   11:49:05 PM
    Diabetes 2 is the fat peoples' disease! - 5/13/2009   11:44:52 PM
    Is there a link to a place where we can learn more about hip to waist ratio? - 5/13/2009   11:41:56 PM
  • 49
    Finding out that I was prediabetic, was what started me on a healthier lifestyle. Now, blood sugar and all else is in the very good range! - 5/13/2009   10:54:12 PM
  • 48
    Great article. It is a good reminder for me and great motivation to take care of myself. My grandmother has diabetes. I want to keep my body in check so I don't get it, too. - 5/13/2009   10:46:08 PM
  • 47
    I was diagnosed a diabetic with 7.5 A1C due to massive dose of (160-200mgs) Lasix I was treated with. With the help of my alternative medical doctor who also practises alopathy, we reversed it. I am no longer a diabetic! Most of the days, I try to eat healthy, balanced meals. Having made certain changes to my nutrition by tracking it on spark, like adding non vegetarian foods to my veggie diet which was high in carbs, eating fiber rich foods, etc. I have licked diabetes for good, we hope! My doc still does blood tests but, I prick only once in a while like once a month. Thanks spark! - 5/13/2009   10:15:22 PM
  • 46
    This article confirms exactly why I am changing my lifestyle now and losing weight while I'm young. - 5/13/2009   3:43:00 PM
  • 45
    I am on my way to seriously lowering my risk. I have lost a lot of weight and completely changed my eating habits. - 5/13/2009   2:51:48 PM
    I know as a fact that all these things are true. I got diabetise because of all the medical things that I have wrong with me. My husband also has diabetise but he's worst than I am because it runs in his family, so his chances were higher than mine. The thing is he has to use insulan twice a day, and while I have been able to monitor mine with diet alone which is very good my doctor tells me. - 5/13/2009   2:04:47 PM
    My grandmother had Type II, my mother (a nurse) has type II since she was 34 (30 years ago), her brother has Type II and, at the age of 33, I too was diagnosed with Type II. No one on my dad's side has it, not even my dad, but my mother side has it all the way down to me. Genetics does play a huge part in it. Also, my mom's brother was an active cop, not a big man at all. My grandmother was normal sized and walked everywhere....she never learned to drive. My mother and I were also a few pounds heavier and I am now down almost 40 pounds. I was an active person...played field hockey in High School , worked out, did aerobics, belonged to the YMCA, etc. I still got it. So yes, I am living healthier now than I ever have in my life but I still battle this disease. Sometimes, you can't change the cards you are dealt but you can play them the best way you know how! - 5/13/2009   12:38:07 PM
  • 42
    Great to see this info available. I was on diabetic medicine for a while, tried to eat right, and started exercising. My sugar levels stabelized and I was taken off meds. I definately can attest to the difference diet, exercise, and rest can make at preventing and eliminating type 2 D.

    - 5/13/2009   12:09:16 PM
  • 41
    I'm not at ALL surprised that these simple changes could make a difference in one's chances of getting type 2 diabetes. I'd also be interested in knowing if they did any peripheral studies on the chances of getting OTHER diseases - cardiovascular problems, cancers, etc.
    - 5/13/2009   11:59:42 AM
  • 40
    Merry father got type 2 in his 50's...I would rather limit my sugar than go through what he has to go through to find food (and afford it) that doesn't have it in it....Blessed Be - 5/13/2009   11:12:57 AM
  • CHER321
    Good information to have. I have a family history of diabetes, weight issues, and heart disease, which is why I am here trying to take better care of myself. - 5/13/2009   9:02:22 AM
  • 38
    I'm not too surprised by these findings. - 5/13/2009   8:17:17 AM
  • 37
    I was considered pre-diabetic prior to having gastric bypass in November 2007. There was never a better motivator for losing weight than having a diabetes diagnosis staring me in the face! I do not envy anyone with diabetes, and though the article does simplify the things you can do to improve your life, it's still very pertinent. Even ONE change in your life, from that list, will make a HUGE difference! And for those who are thinking of how they inherited this from someone in their family: it's more likely that you inherited their bad eating habits, including lack of exercise. Don't blame - make a change! - 5/13/2009   7:51:09 AM
  • 36
    What about genetics? Diabetes runs in my family. Take my dad for example. He was diagnosed w/ Diabetes about 5 years ago. He's always been very health conscious watching what he eats & makes it a habit to exercise regularly. He quit drinking alcohol in the 1970's when he was diagnosed as being Bi-polar... Quit smoking in the late 1970's as well. He was also at a healthy weight before being diagnosed w/ Terminal Cancer (now he's about 2-3 lbs under weight due to the Chemo treatments). - 5/13/2009   7:50:11 AM
  • 35
    That is why I'm trying to get to a healthy weight and exercising. I don't want to become a diabetic. I've never smoked - just lived with my parents when they were smokers, and average less than 1 drink per week. Trying to get the rest healthy now! - 5/13/2009   7:17:27 AM
  • 34
    Those are the same 5 things we have been hearing about for a very long time. All pretty much common sense stuff. - 5/12/2009   11:39:01 PM
  • 32
    For some people this would be changing their whole life !! - 5/12/2009   10:42:04 PM
  • 31
    I do all these things already for that reason. Diabetes runs in my family. I don't want to get it either. So I will continue eat right & exercise. - 5/12/2009   9:05:56 PM
  • 30
    I'm not surprised at all. I have a family history of diabetes and that's exactly why I'm here. To learn healthy eating habits and to slim down and lower my BMI. - 5/12/2009   7:55:33 PM
  • 29
    Are you surprised that these changes could have such significant results?

    Nope. This is eactly one of the specific reasons that I joined SparkPeople, to help me from having to learn about this subject in any more detail!
    I was gestationally diabetic, and I was told that it was a preview of coming attractions if I wasn't careful. So, starting at nearly the weight I was at the heaviest of my pregnancies without benefit of a bundle of joy anticipated...I joined y'all! Thanks! - 5/12/2009   6:59:01 PM
  • 28
    Prevention of diabetes and heart disease is one of the big reasons I have taken this step to a healthier lifestyle. I am at prime risk due to my genetics, so I am sure hoping that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Only wish I had started this journey many years ago. - 5/12/2009   6:18:22 PM
  • 27
    Diabetes is growing in large numbers, one of the many reasons like others here that have joined Spark People. Thanks for the eye opener.

    Prevention is the key for me.
    - 5/12/2009   6:13:39 PM

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