Type 2 diabetes (type 2 diabetes mellitus) is a long-term (chronic) disease that affects blood sugar (glucose) levels. Normally, a hormone called insulin allows glucose to enter cells in the body. The cells use glucose for energy. In type 2 diabetes, one or both of these problems may be present:

  • The body does not make enough insulin.
  • The body does not respond properly to insulin that it makes (insulin resistance).

Insulin resistance or lack of insulin causes excess glucose to build up in the blood instead of going into cells. As a result, high blood glucose (hyperglycemia) develops, which can cause many complications. Being overweight or obese and having an inactive (sedentary) lifestyle can increase your risk for diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by making certain nutrition and lifestyle changes.

  • Eat healthy meals and snacks regularly. Keep a healthy snack with you for when you get hungry between meals, such as fruit or a handful of nuts.
  • Eat lean meats and proteins that are low in saturated fats, such as chicken, fish, egg whites, and beans. Avoid processed meats.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and plenty of grains that have not been processed (whole grains). It is recommended that you eat:
    • 1½‒2 cups of fruit every day.
    • 2½‒3 cups of vegetables every day.
    • 6‒8 oz of whole grains every day, such as oats, whole wheat, bulgur, brown rice, quinoa, and millet.
  • Eat low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Eat foods that contain healthy fats, such as nuts, avocado, olive oil, and canola oil.
  • Drink water throughout the day. Avoid drinks that contain added sugar, such as soda or sweet tea.
  • Follow instructions from your health care provider about specific eating or drinking restrictions.
  • Control how much food you eat at a time (portion size).
    • Check food labels to find out the serving sizes of foods.
    • Use a kitchen scale to weigh amounts of foods.
  • Sauté or steam food instead of frying it. Cook with water or broth instead of oils or butter.
  • Limit your intake of:
    • Salt (sodium). Have no more than 1 tsp (2,400 mg) of sodium a day. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, have less than ½‒¾ tsp (1,500 mg) of sodium a day.
    • Saturated fat. This is fat that is solid at room temperature, such as butter or fat on meat.


  • Do moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on at least 5 days of the week, or as much as told by your health care provider.
  • Ask your health care provider what activities are safe for you. A mix of physical activities may be best, such as walking, swimming, cycling, and strength training.
  • Try to add physical activity into your day. For example:
    • Park in spots that are farther away than usual, so that you walk more. For example, park in a far corner of the parking lot when you go to the office or the grocery store.
    • Take a walk during your lunch break.
    • Use stairs instead of elevators or escalators.

Weight Loss

  • Lose weight as directed. Your health care provider can determine how much weight loss is best for you and can help you lose weight safely.
  • If you are overweight or obese, you may be instructed to lose at least 5‒7 % of your body weight.

Alcohol and Tobacco

  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink a day for nonpregnant women and 2 drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1½ oz of hard liquor.
  • Do not use any tobacco products, such as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.

Work With Your Health Care Provider

  • Have your blood glucose tested regularly, as told by your health care provider.
  • Discuss your risk factors and how you can reduce your risk for diabetes.
  • Get screening tests as told by your health care provider. You may have screening tests regularly, especially if you have certain risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
  • Make an appointment with a diet and nutrition specialist (registered dietitian). A registered dietitian can help you make a healthy eating plan and can help you understand portion sizes and food labels.
  • It is possible to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and related health problems by making lifestyle and nutrition changes.
  • It can be difficult to recognize signs of type 2 diabetes. The best way to avoid possible damage to your body is to take actions to prevent the disease before you develop symptoms.
  • Your blood glucose levels may keep increasing. Having high blood glucose for a long time is dangerous. Too much glucose in your blood can damage your blood vessels, heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes.
  • You may develop prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can lead to many chronic health problems and complications, such as:
    • Heart disease.
    • Stroke.
    • Blindness.
    • Kidney disease.
    • Depression.
    • Poor circulation in the feet and legs, which could lead to surgical removal (amputation) in severe cases.

Where to find support:

  • Ask your health care provider to recommend a registered dietitian, diabetes educator, or weight loss program.
  • Look for local or online weight loss groups.
  • Join a gym, fitness club, or outdoor activity group, such as a walking club.

Summary of preventing type 2 diabetes mellitus:

  • You can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes by increasing your physical activity, eating healthy foods, and losing weight as directed.
  • Talk with your health care provider about your risk for type 2 diabetes. Ask about any blood tests or screening tests that you need to have.

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About Genomic Medicine UK

Genomic Medicine UK is the home of comprehensive genomic testing in London. Our consultant medical doctors work tirelessly to provide the highest standards of medical laboratory testing for personalised medical treatments, genomic risk assessments for common diseases and genomic risk assessment for cancers at an affordable cost for everybody. We use state-of-the-art modern technologies of next-generation sequencing and DNA chip microarray to provide all of our patients and partner doctors with a reliable, evidence-based, thorough and valuable medical service.

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