4 simple lifestyle changes that can prevent type 2 diabetes

Blood sugar finger prick testing with portable glucometer. type 2 diabetes
An expert has revealed some simple changes to make to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. (Getty Images)

An estimated 4.8 million people suffer from diabetes in the UK, with 90% of these cases being classified as type 2.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is typically diagnosed in childhood and occurs when your body is unable to produce insulin, the development of type 2 diabetes happens over time and diet an lifestyle choices can be a big factor in its development.

Most type 2 diabetics are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 63, but there are some preventative measures you can take to lower your risk of developing the disease.

In fact, according to Vitality Health Insurance’s Habit Index, people who walk 10,000 steps a day, three times a week for three years, can reduce their type 2 diabetes risk by 41%, and those who walk this amount four or more times a week saw a 57% reduction in risk.

“Diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, can often be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes including diet,” Andrew Isaac, Vitality Health and Wellness coach, says. “While genetics and other factors play a role, a healthy diet is a key component, in fact looking at our diet in combination with other lifestyle changes, can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes.”

Below, Isaac explains some simple changes you can make to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

With an estimated 35% of the UK population largely inactive, Isaac says that by moving more – even just 10,000 steps a day, three times a week – can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

“Exercise makes our body’s cells more responsive to insulin, the hormone which regulates our blood sugar called glucose,” he explains. “This means our bodies can use glucose more efficiently and promotes uptake to our muscles. This helps lower blood sugar levels, and this effect can last some time – hours or even days after exercising.

Close up of running shoes and women feet when warming up activity before running.
Walking 10,000 steps, three times a week can drastically reduce your risk. (Getty Images)

“Exercise helps to burn calories and build muscle, contributing to weight loss and maintenance. Excess weight, especially around the abdomen is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, excess fat is associated with insulin resistance, and this increases the risk of diabetes.”

Additionally, exercise can improve heart circulation, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and it can also reduce chronic inflammation which has been associated with insulin resistance.

“Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet, providing us with energy to get through the day. However, reducing our intake can help manage and even prevent diabetes,” Isaac explains.

“This food group has a direct impact on blood sugar as they are broken down into glucose during digestion. Therefore, limiting carbohydrates prevents spikes of blood sugar levels and maintains a more consistent level. Reducing our intake also reduces the amount of insulin the body needs to produce which in turn reduces insulin resistance.”

Unlike carbohydrates, fibre can slow glucose absorption which can reduce rapid sugar spikes after meals.

Overhead view of woman's hands holding a plate filled with healthy plant-based food. The composition include, tofu, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, lettuce, dried fruits, avocado and veggy patties. High resolution 42Mp studio digital capture taken with SONY A7rII and Zeiss Batis 40mm F2.0 CF lens
Increased fibre intake can help to reduce blood glucose spikes. (Getty Images)

“Fibre tends to be more filling too, which can help with weight management and reduce our overall calorie intake,” Isaac says.

“The advice for adults is to aim for 30g of fibre a day, made up of whole grains, pulses, fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. But if you don’t currently eat much fibre it’s advisable to build this up slowly to allow your body to adjust.”

“Processed food can negatively impact diabetes management and increase the risk of developing it as they are often high in added sugars and contain refined carbohydrates such as white flour and sugar, which are quickly digested and absorbed leading to rapid spikes in blood glucose levels,” Isaac explains.

“They also contain unhealthy fats such as trans fats and saturated fats which can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation, all factors known to be associated with developing diabetes.”