4 lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes at any age

June 1, 2023

Approximately 1.5 million Canadians are living with diabetes and they are unaware that they have diabetes. It is important to be aware of your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and actively make lifestyle changes that reduce your risk.

Let’s dig into what type 2 diabetes is, the risk factors, and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk. Understanding the risks and how to combat them will help you make choices to mitigate the chance of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when a person can’t properly use the insulin made by their bodies or their bodies don’t produce enough insulin. It most commonly develops in adulthood, and can sometimes be managed with lifestyle changes although they may also require medication or insulin therapy.

It is estimated that 7.5% of Canadians between 20-79 currently have type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

As with many chronic conditions, the earlier you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the better. Taking quick action is important when you are diagnosed. You can take this even further by being aware of your risks early and working to reduce those factors when possible.

Some risk factors are beyond your control, but others can be managed or reduced through lifestyle changes. We’ll look at both categories below:

  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have a high body mass index (BMI) or are overweight
  • You have high levels of cholesterol or other fats in the blood
  • You have been diagnosed with prediabetes (impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose)
  • You are over the age of 40
  • You have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • You are of African, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous, or South Asian descent
  • You have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • You have a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder
  • You have obstructive sleep apnea
  • You have darkened patches of skin called acanthosis nigricans

Read on to find out how you can work towards reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

4 tips to help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

Diet is the most important lifestyle change you can make in your journey to reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

You don’t need to make sweeping changes right away to make a difference. Instead, start small. Diabetes Canada recommends taking steps to cut out highly processed foods, refined grains such as white bread, sugary foods, and sugary drinks.

When you start to plan your meals for the day or week, start with the vegetables. Then add in plant-based proteins, whole grains, dairy, lean meats, oily fish, nuts, and healthy oils such as olive oil. Following Canada’s Food Guide’s food guide snapshot is a great way to ensure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Diabetes Canada also recommends following the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet, and a study conducted on type 2 diabetes found that a ketogenic diet can also help improve blood glucose ​​​​levels. Consult with a dietician or a diabetes educator to determine which diet is right for you.

Make movement a part of your everyday

Exercise is another important lifestyle change that can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Integrate movement and physical activity into your daily routine to get the most benefit.

According to the Canadian 24 Movement Guidelines, adults aged 18-64 should be getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise as well as several hours of light physical activity like standing, and 2-3 strength training sessions per week.

Consider adding 25 minutes of walking to your day each day and as you improve, add more time or more intensity to your activities.

Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, if you are working towards healthy eating and exercising more, you’ve already taken two steps towards maintaining a healthy weight.

Again, small steps are the way to go—if you have pre-diabetes, an eating and exercise plan that helps you lose 5% of your body weight can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.

Consult with your doctor to determine what weight range you should be in.

Get support

You don’t have to do it alone. You will be more successful if you enlist the help of your support network when making these lifestyle changes. Whether you turn to a workout buddy, your family doctor, or Diabetes Canada, there are many ways you can get support on your journey.

Even implementing one of these changes can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So start small, and work towards making a positive impact on your overall health.

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