Diabetes Management

10 Simple Lifestyle Changes To Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 04 July 2023

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Unmanaged diabetes can have serious consequences, including kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, and other health complications affecting the body's vital organs. While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, making certain lifestyle changes can play a crucial role in preventing type 2 diabetes. It is particularly important to focus on prevention if you have risk factors such as high cholesterol levels, obesity or excess weight, or a family history of diabetes.

10 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Diabetes

For those who have been diagnosed with prediabetes, lifestyle changes can help delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. These changes are also beneficial for diabetics as they help promote blood glucose control and reduce the risk of heart disease. By implementing the following lifestyle modifications, you can effectively manage diabetes, reduce the risk of complications, and improve your overall health and well-being.

1. Reduce Carb Intake

Generally, when you consume carbs, your body breaks them down into sugar molecules, which enter your bloodstream. This increase in blood sugar triggers the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin helps utilise sugar to form energy used by the body's different cells. 

Let’s understand, what happens in diabetes:

  • In individuals with prediabetes, the cells become resistant to insulin, resulting in persistently high blood sugar levels. To compensate, the pancreas creates more insulin in an attempt to lower blood sugar. Over time, this can result in progressively elevated insulin and blood sugar levels, eventually progressing to type 2 diabetes. 
  • Numerous studies have linked frequent consumption of refined carbs and added sugars to an increased risk of diabetes.

Opt for high-fibre carbs and non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, mushrooms, oatmeal, whole fruits, pasta, and whole-grain bread to stabilise your blood sugar levels. 

Incorporating lean proteins such as fish and healthy fats from sources like avocado, nuts, olive oil, and seeds can also reduce the impact of high blood sugar.

2. Exercise Regularly 

Regular physical activity can help you in:

  • Lowering your blood sugar levels
  • Increasing your insulin sensitivity 
  • Losing weight

For most adults aiming to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, the following exercise goals are recommended:

  • Aerobic Exercise: Strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, biking, running, or swimming, on most days. Aim for a total of at least 150 minutes per week.
  • Resistance Exercise: Engage in resistance exercises at least 2 to 3 times per week. This type of exercise improves balance, strength, and the ability to have an active lifestyle. Examples of resistance training include yoga and weightlifting.
  • Avoid Prolonged Periods of Inactivity: Taking a few minutes to walk around, stand, or engage in light activity every 30 minutes can help regulate blood sugar levels.

Also read:  5 Best Exercises To Maintain Diabetes

3. Lose Extra Weight

Being overweight can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Specifically, the presence of visceral fat (excess weight around the abdomen) is linked to insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. 

Let’s understand how losing weight helps:

  • It's important to note that losing even 5-7% of your body weight, can significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially if you have prediabetes or obesity.
  • One effective approach to losing weight is to create a balanced plate that includes lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. 
  • It's advisable to set a weight-loss goal based on your current body weight. Consult with your doctor to determine realistic short-term goals and expectations, like shedding 1 to 2 pounds per week.

4. Quit Smoking

Smoking is known to contribute to various serious health conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and intestinal and lung cancers. 

Let’s understand how smoking affects your body:

  • Research has also established a connection between smoking and type 2 diabetes. Although the exact mechanisms are not completely understood, it is believed that smoking can impede insulin secretion and increase insulin resistance. 
  • Moreover, individuals who smoke heavily or more frequently have a higher risk of developing diabetes compared to those who smoke fewer cigarettes.
  • A study conducted on over 53,000 adults revealed that the risk of diabetes decreases over time after quitting smoking. Individuals who have abstained from smoking for 10 or more years may experience a diabetes risk level similar to individuals who have never smoked.

5. Reduce Portion Sizes

Maintaining appropriate portion sizes can play a crucial role in preventing diabetes. Consuming excessive amounts of food in one sitting has been shown to result in elevated insulin and blood sugar levels, particularly in individuals at risk of diabetes. 

On the other hand, opting for smaller portions can help reduce calorie intake, promote weight loss, and consequently lower the risk of developing diabetes.

Here’s how you can reduce your portion size:

  • To effectively manage portion sizes, a helpful strategy is to divide your plate into halves and quarters. 
  • Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as cruciferous veggies. 
  • Allocate a quarter of your plate to lean sources of protein, such as fish, poultry, or tofu.
  • The remaining quarter can be dedicated to complex carbohydrates like whole grains or fruits.
  • When dining out at restaurants, consider choosing an appetiser as your main course or requesting a half portion to control your intake. 
  • Additionally, instead of eating snacks directly from the package, transfer an appropriate amount to a separate dish. 

6. High-fibre Diet

Consuming adequate dietary fibre offers numerous benefits for gut health and weight management and may even help prevent diabetes. Let’s understand how:

  • Research conducted among older women with obesity and individuals with prediabetes has demonstrated that fibre plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal insulin and blood sugar levels.
  • Soluble fibre can absorb water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This gel slows down the absorption of food, resulting in a gradual and steady increase in blood sugar levels. 
  • By incorporating more soluble fibre into your diet, you can potentially reduce fasting insulin and blood sugar levels. 
  • To increase your soluble fibre intake, your diet can include legumes, oats, fruits (like oranges and apples), and vegetables (like Brussels sprouts and carrots). 

7. Increase Vitamin D Intake

Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D is crucial for effective blood sugar management. Research has shown low insulin release and high insulin resistance in those with vitamin D deficiency. To achieve and maintain adequate vitamin D levels:

  • Consume cod liver oil and fatty fish
  • Spend time in the sun to stimulate your body's production of vitamin D
  • Take daily vitamin D supplementation 

It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional and have your vitamin D levels assessed before initiating any supplementation.

Explore Vitamin D Supplements

8. Cut Back on Processed Foods

Reducing the consumption of heavily processed foods offers numerous health benefits. Some examples of heavily processed foods include chips, hot dogs, frozen desserts, candy bars, and sodas. 

Research has linked diets rich in ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In contrast, consuming whole foods such as vegetables, nuts, and fruits, which possess anti-diabetic properties can help maintain blood glucose levels. A study demonstrated that diets rich in processed foods increased the risk of diabetes by 30% while consuming nutritious whole foods reduced this risk.

9. Reconsider Your Choice of Beverages

While water should be your primary beverage of choice, research shows that incorporating coffee or tea into your diet may benefit in preventing diabetes. 

  • Coffee and tea contain antioxidants called polyphenols, which have the potential to protect against diabetes. Studies have shown that regular coffee consumption can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 54%. 
  • Similarly, another study has revealed a connection between a daily intake of green tea and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To maximise the potential benefits, it is recommended to consume coffee or tea without added sugars or syrups. Ensure you do not exceed your daily caffeine intake to more than 400 milligrams a day. 

Also read:  Avoid or Limit These Common Foods with Hidden Sugar

10. Include Healthy Fats in The Diet

Foods that are high in fat should be consumed in moderation due to their high-calorie content. When aiming to lose weight, it is important to eat a variety of foods that contain unsaturated fats, often referred to as 'good fats'. Unsaturated fats, including both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, help in maintaining healthy levels of blood cholesterol and contribute to good vascular and heart health. Some sources of unsaturated fats include:

  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Cod

On the other hand, saturated fats are considered ‘bad fats’ and are typically found in meats and dairy products. It is advisable to consume saturated fats in moderation and ensure they constitute a small portion of your overall diet. 


By incorporating a healthy diet and adopting lifestyle habits that support optimal blood sugar and insulin levels, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing diabetes. For more information, consult our experts.

Talk To Apollo’s Expert Diabetologists


Q. Which foods can help prevent diabetes?

To reduce the risk of diabetes, your diet should be rich in the following foods:

  • Non-starchy vegetables like peppers, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, and spinach
  • Lean protein like fish, turkey, tofu, chicken, eggs, and yoghurt.
  • Fruits like oranges and apples
  • Whole grains like quinoa, steel-cut oatmeal, and brown rice
  • Water and unsweetened drinks

Q. What are the warning signs of diabetes?

Some of the common warning signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Itchy skin
  • Pins and needles
  • Increased susceptibility to skin infections
  • Slow healing wounds 

Q. What is the normal blood sugar level?

Typically, the normal blood sugar range is considered to be from 90 to 130 mg/dL for adults

Q. Can pre-diabetes be cured?

Prediabetes is reversible. You can delay or prevent its progression to type 2 diabetes by making healthy lifestyle changes.

Q. Can stress cause prediabetes?

Yes, elevated stress levels over a prolonged period increase the production of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase your risk of developing prediabetes.


Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt.

Diabetes Management

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