About World Diabetes Day

14 November

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Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
537 millionpeople with diabetes

Know your risk, know your response

Type 2 diabetes accounts for over 90% of all diabetes. There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the condition.

Unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles associated with urbanisation are common factors contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes. There is overwhelming evidence from studies in the USA, Finland, China, India and Japan that lifestyle changes (achieving a healthy body weight and moderate physical activity) can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in people at risk.

Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes involves a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial as overweight and obesity increases the risk. Even a small weight loss can make a big difference. Regular screenings and check-ups, especially for people with one or more of the risk factors, can detect early signs and help individuals make the necessary changes to delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

Several risk factors have been associated with type 2 diabetes and include:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Increasing age
  • High blood pressure
  • Ethnicity
  • Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)*
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Poor nutrition during pregnancy

*Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) is a category of higher than normal blood glucose, but below the threshold for diagnosing diabetes.

Know your risk of type 2 diabetes

Brief questionnaires are simple, practical and inexpensive ways to quickly identify people who may be at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and who need to have their level of risk further investigated.

IDF has developed an IDF type 2 diabetes online diabetes risk assessment which aims to predict an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the next ten years. The test is based on the Finnish Diabetes Risk Score (FINDRISC) developed and designed by Adj. Prof Jaana Lindstrom and Prof. Jaakko Tuomilehto from the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.

IDF recommendations for a healthy diet for the general population

  • Choosing water, coffee or tea instead of fruit juice, soda, or other sugar sweetened beverages
  • Eating at least three servings of vegetable every day, including green leafy vegetables
  • Eating up to three servings of fresh fruit every day
  • Choosing nuts, a piece of fresh fruit, or unsweetened yoghurt for a snack
  • Limiting alcohol intake to a maximum of two standard drinks per day
  • Choosing lean cuts of white meat, poultry or seafood instead of red or processed meat
  • Choosing peanut butter instead of chocolate spread or jam
  • Choosing whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta instead of white bread, rice, or pasta
  • Choosing unsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, or sunflower oil) instead of saturated fats (butter, ghee, animal fat, coconut oil or palm oil

Physical activity

Any movement is good, and more is generally better, to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, jogging, swimming or cycling) per week, spread out over several days, possibly in shorter bouts of 10-15 minutes.

Strength training also has its advantages. You can increase muscle mass and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control by using weights or resistance bands to strengthen muscles.

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