Skip Navigation

Take Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

woman with hand weight

The Basics

You can do a lot to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes (“dy-ah-BEE-teez”), including:

  • Watching your weight
  • Eating healthy
  • Staying active
  • Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Quitting smoking

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. If it’s not controlled, diabetes can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems.

The good news is that small steps to prevent diabetes can lead to big rewards. Make a plan to prevent type 2 diabetes.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease. When you have diabetes, there is too much glucose (sugar) in your blood. Over time, if it’s not controlled, diabetes can cause serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, and blindness.

To learn more about how diabetes affects the body, visit:

Diabetes can’t be cured, but it can be controlled.

What is type 2 diabetes?
There is more than one type of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. People who are overweight are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.

The food you eat turns into glucose (“GLOO-kohs”). Your blood carries glucose to other parts of the body. Your body depends on glucose for energy.

When you have diabetes, your body has trouble turning glucose into energy. Instead of being used by your body, the glucose builds up in your blood. The rest of your body is starved of energy.

What is pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes means the amount of glucose in your blood is higher than normal. If you have pre-diabetes, you are at risk for serious health problems, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Find out more about pre-diabetes.

Am I at risk for diabetes?
You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Exercise less than 3 times a week
  • Have had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • Have had a baby with a birth weight of more than 9 pounds
  • Are over 45 years old
  • Have high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes

What are the signs of diabetes?
Many people with diabetes don’t know they have the disease. Some signs of diabetes include:

  • Being very thirsty or very hungry
  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Urinating (going to the bathroom) more than usual
  • Losing weight for no reason
  • Having cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Having trouble seeing (blurry vision)
  • Losing feeling or having tingling in your hands or feet

Not everyone who has diabetes has these signs. If you have any of these signs or think you may be at risk, go to the doctor for a blood glucose test.

Take Action!

Take these steps to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Eat healthy.
Eating healthy foods can help you:

  • Control your weight
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Prevent or delay type 2 diabetes

Choose foods low in fat, cholesterol, and salt. Try these tips to:

Get active.
Being physically active can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or biking.

If you have a health condition, be as active as you can be. Use these tips to stay active with a disability. Your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you.

Watch your weight.
Studies show that losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. If you weigh 200 pounds, 7 percent of your body weight is 14 pounds.

Try keeping a diary to write down:

To get started, print this Food and Activity Tracker [PDF - 350 KB] and use it for a week.

Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.

Quit smoking.
People who smoke are more likely to get type 2 diabetes. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support and to set up your quit plan.

Talk to a doctor about your diabetes risk.
Use this tool to find out if you are at risk for diabetes. External Links Disclaimer Logo Print out the results and take them to your next checkup.

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, covers these services related to diabetes risk:

  • Diabetes screening for adults with high blood pressure
  • Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease

Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Learn how to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of stroke.

Start Today: Small Steps

Note:  Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat ReaderĀ®.
If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the ReaderĀ®.

You May Also Be Interested In

Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133