Diabetes: If You Can’t Prevent It, You May Be Able to Delay It

When it comes to diabetes, small changes in your diet and lifestyle can have a big payoff. How? According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the three major causes of diabetes are often within our control. These are:

  • Excess weight, particularly that spare tire that shows up around the waist.
  • Physical inactivity. To put it simply, you have to figure out ways to get your body moving.
  • Sleep problems. Believe it or not, poor sleep can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.

But before we talk about some ideas for prevention, let’s look at what diabetes actually is:

When we eat, most of our food is turned into glucose, or sugar, which the body uses as energy. Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar level, or blood glucose, is too high. The sugar is moved around the body to our cells by a hormone, called insulin, which is made in the pancreas. For a person with diabetes, our bodies either don’t make enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin it does make. In either case, sugar builds up in the blood. Over time, this may lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, blindness and more.

 Two types of diabetes

  • Type 1: The body does not make any insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day.
  • Type 2: The body does not make enough insulin or does not use it well. This is the most common form of diabetes and is the type that can benefit from lifestyle changes.

In addition to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, there is also a condition called prediabetes, in which the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Many people do not know they have pre-diabetes. The good news is —prediabetes can be reversed. Through a national study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), the NIH found that “millions of high-risk people can delay or avoid developing type 2 diabetes by losing weight through regular physical activity and a diet low in fat calories.”

Medicare Can Help

 When it comes to getting diabetes screenings, you’re not alone.  Medicare covers diabetes screenings tests for those who are at risk. Talk with your doctor if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, have high cholesterol and/or have a family history of diabetes.

Simple Ways to Delay (and maybe prevent) Diabetes

Of course, getting more physical activity and eating better are messages that have been recommended for years. So, how do you do it? To start, use your imagination. There are many, many small things you can do that will help. Below are 10 simple ideas. Healthy actions do add up!

  1. Instead of watching TV, listen to music while you eat. (People eat more while watching television2.)
  2. Whenever possible, use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  3. Walk in place while watching television.
  4. Park a little farther away or get off the bus a stop earlier when you’re doing errands.
  5. Eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice.
  6. Drink plain water instead of juice, soda, flavored water or diet drinks.
  7. Cook with spices instead of salt.
  8. Never grocery shop on an empty stomach.
  9. If you need to snack between meals – and don’t we all sometimes – try to choose whole foods like grains, fruits or vegetables. Even popcorn without the salt can take care of those hunger pains!
  10. Eat slowly. Research shows that it takes at least 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full3.

Delaying diabetes is the first step to prevention. Along with making lifestyle changes, talk with your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested and be sure that they know about any family history of diabetes. 


  1. Trends in lifetime risk and years of life lost due to diabetes in the USA, 1985–2011: a modelling study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology Volume 2, Issue 11, November 2014, Pages 867–874
  2. Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. February 7, 2013, Vol 97, No. 4, Pages 728-742.
  3. Gastrointestinal satiety signals II. Cholecystokinin. American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology Published 9 January 2004 Vol. 286 no. 2, G183-G188 DOI: 10.1152/ajpgi.00434.2003.

Most recent update: 9/7/2017


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