Lifestyle changes key to delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes

Group of people jogging in a park

In the U.S., about 10 percent of the population has type 2 diabetes. Even more surprising? Nearly one in four people living with diabetes don’t even know they have it.

These and other facts are included in a new report from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The third “Diabetes in America” report, released last summer, has information for everyone.

Do you think you or a family member could have type 2 diabetes? Read our overview below for information and lifestyle tips from 
the report and MedlinePlus.


Diabetes is a serious disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Having too much glucose in your blood affects how your body uses food for energy and growth.

With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or use insulin effectively. Insulin—a hormone made by the pancreas—helps glucose move from your blood into your cells, where it is used for energy. Without enough insulin, not enough glucose reaches your cells, leaving glucose in your blood. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems.

Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes with medication and lifestyle changes.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Although people with diabetes usually have symptoms, too often those symptoms are ignored or dismissed. Some symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Feeling tired
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Losing weight without trying


You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. However, this type of diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes. A family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, and being inactive can increase your chances of developing the disease. Women who have a history of gestational diabetes, which can develop during pregnancy, are also at increased risk.

It is more common in African Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

A primary care provider will often diagnose and treat type 2 diabetes. However, they may refer you to a diabetes specialist called an endocrinologist.


High blood glucose levels can have a severe effect on the body. Issues can include:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Vision problems
  • Foot problems
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual and bladder problems
  • Gum disease and other dental problems


There is good news for people at risk for type 2 diabetes. You can prevent or delay the disease with healthy lifestyle changes, according to findings from the NIDDK-supported Diabetes Prevention Program research study. That includes people with prediabetes, a condition where  your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. 

Taking small steps, such as eating less and moving more to lose weight, can help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and related health problems. Asking your health care team about steps you can take to prevent type 2 is key.

  • Set a weight loss goal. If you are overweight, set a weight loss goal that you can reach. Try to lose at least 5 to 10 percent of your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 10 percent weight loss goal means that you will try to lose 20 pounds.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan for weight loss. Research shows that you can prevent or delay type 2 by losing weight by following a reduced-calorie eating plan and being more active each day.  
  • Move more. Start slowly and add more activity until you get to at least 30 minutes of physical activity, like a brisk walk, five days a week.

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