Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Type 2 Diabetes Is Preventable

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

May 2, 2001 -- Diabetes is nothing to fool with. If you're at high risk for it -- that is, if you are a bit overweight, a couch potato, and have a family history of diabetes -- you risk a lifetime of serious complications. What's more, you may end up taking medications such as insulin for the rest of your life.

But a new study adds proof to what doctors have been advising all along: eat right and get a little exercise, and you can stave off the disease.

You can find out more about preventing diabetes, or managing it if you have it, at WebMD's Diabetes chat board moderated by Gloria Yee, RN, CDE.

"This study provides evidence that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by changes in the lifestyles of both men and women at high risk for the disease," writes study author Jaakko Tuomilehto, MD, PhD, a researcher in the Diabetes and Genetic Epidemiology Unit of the University of Helsinki in Finland. His study appears in the current issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is an extremely important study," P. Antonio Tataranni, MD, a senior scientist with the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, tells WebMD. "Doctors are always struggling with trying to convince patients that embracing a healthy lifestyle is a good thing to do. Now the data are there to show that that these changes will have a significant impact on the life of people who are at risk of diabetes." Tataranni was co-author of an editorial on the study.

Risk of diabetes is not to be taken lightly, says Lee J. Sanders, DPM, president of healthcare and education for the American Diabetes Association. "People with diabetes have a two- to fourfold increase for cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes," he tells WebMD. "Diabetes causes nerve damage throughout the body, making it the leading cause of blindness and lower extremity amputations. It is also the leading cause of end-stage renal failure. The long-term complications are very serious."

In their six-year study, Tuomilehto and colleagues enrolled 523 people who were at high risk of diabetes because they were overweight, between the ages of 40 and 65, and had a family history of diabetes. Each had taken a glucose tolerance test that showed that their glucose tolerance was impaired, evidence they were at an intermediate stage in terms of their risk of developing the disease. The patients were split into two groups.

Those in the comparison group were told that by changing dietary and exercise habits, they could reduce their risk of diabetes. They were given a two-page leaflet of nutritional suggestions, kept a three-day food diary at the beginning of the study and reported -- on each annual visit -- their nutrition habits.

The "intervention group" got considerably more attention: people were given detailed advice about how to achieve their goals -- how to reduce weight, total intake of fat, intake of saturated fat, increase in fiber. Each had seven sessions with a nutritionist during the first year and one session every three months afterwards. They were also coached to increase exercise to 30 minutes each day, mostly through "endurance exercise" such as walking, jogging, swimming, aerobic ball games or skiing.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections