If you’re worried about developing diabetes, there’s lots you can do to reduce your risk. Around three in five cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes.
Use our action plan for diabetes to make simple changes to what you eat and how active you are.
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Understanding the risk factors for type 2 diabetes is your first step to preventing it. If you haven’t already, read our guide.
If you suspect you may have diabetes, or think you’re at risk of developing it, talk to your GP.
If you do have diabetes, the earlier it’s detected the better. Your GP can give you a simple finger-prick test that checks the level of glucose in your blood. You can also get an idea of your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by taking a quick online test.
If you’re between 40 and 74 and live in England, you may also be invited to have a free NHS health check every five years. This assesses your risk of heart problems as well as type 2 diabetes, and includes advice if you’re at risk.
Use this simple NHS healthy weight calculator to work out your body mass index (BMI).
Your BMI is a measurement of your body fat based on your height and weight. Medical professionals can use it to assess how at risk you are of some diseases. If you have a BMI of 25 or above (23 or above if you’re of South Asian, African-Caribbean or Black African descent), you may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Your waist measurement can also tell you if your risk of diabetes is higher than it should be. According to Diabetes UK, you have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you meet the following conditions.
- If you’re a woman and your waist is 31.5 inches (80cm) or more.
- If you’re a man and your waist is 37 inches (94cm) or more.
- If you’re a man of South Asian background and your waist is 35 inches (90cm) or more.
If you’re overweight, you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by losing excess weight.
Eating healthy can also help boost your energy, your mood and your overall health. Do keep in mind that fad diets don’t work. What will make the biggest difference is making realistic changes you can stick to for the rest of your life. Make some healthy swaps to what you eat, learn how to read food labels, and get into the habit of bringing a healthy lunch to work.
For tips on changing your diet for good, check out OneYou from the NHS.
Aim to be more physically active and move more each day to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Sitting for hours on end stops your body from burning sugars. These get stored as fat, which puts you at risk of developing diabetes.
Even 20 minutes of exercise a day will boost the release of your body’s feel-good chemicals, help reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your self-esteem. Play a sport, dance, go for a walk at lunchtime – it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get moving. For tips on working more exercise into your daily routine, click here.
Learn how to better cope with stressful situations.
Sometimes life feels like it's full of challenges and unexpected events. How you cope with the stresses these bring may put you at risk of developing diabetes. If you’re overeating or using junk food to cope with feeling stressed out, you’re putting yourself at a greater risk. You can’t always change the root cause of your stress, but you can change how you respond to it. And you can build your ability to bounce back from challenges.
Read our action plan on stress to find out how.
Ask your employer if they can support you in making changes to your lifestyle.
If you’re working, see if you can access any programmes for keeping healthy. Some employers offer reduced-price gym membership, discounted wearable fitness trackers, or health apps. There might even be a lunchtime walking club you could join.
Check your intranet, or talk to HR about how they can help you make healthy changes.