“Keeping weight in check, being active, and eating a healthy diet can help prevent most cases of type 2 diabetes.” – Havard T. Chan, School of Public Health, 2020 (1).

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when an individual’s blood sugar is consistently high because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin produced. The three (3) main types of diabetes include: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes. Risk factors for developing Type 1 Diabetes include family history race, age and even some environmental factors. The major risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, family history and age. The likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes rises steeply with increasing obesity. Diabetes is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.

It is estimated that the prevalence of diabetes will rise by 25% in 2030 (2). With an increased rate of diagnosis among adults and children, quick and deliberate actions need to be adopted to nip this increasing diagnosis in the bud. Up to 90% of type 2 diabetes is preventable by simply making lifestyle changes (1). These lifestyle changes do not only reduce the risk of developing diabetes but also other non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases as well

Diabetes can be prevented but when a person is diagnosed with diabetes – it can be managed but not cured.

How can diabetes be prevented?

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese is one of the greatest risks of developing type 2 diabetes. When an individual who is overweight or obese loses 7-10% of their current weight, their risk of developing diabetes reduces by 50% (1). A waist circumference greater than 35 in women and 40 in men increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Engage in physical activity: The less active you are, the higher your risk of developing diabetes. Physical activity is beneficial to the body as it helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers the risk of heart diseases, stroke and diabetes. Results from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study report that brisk walking for 30 minutes every day reduces a person’s risk of developing diabetes by 30% (1).

Eat a healthy diet: Eating a poor diet significantly increases the risk of developing diabetes. It is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet inclusive of fruits and vegetables, high-fibers and lean sources of protein such as fish. Avoid eating fatty, sugary and processed foods. Also cut back on salt. Let water be your primary beverage.

Tobacco and Alcohol use: Tobacco is the single, greatest preventable cause of death globally. Avoiding tobacco use significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For those who smoke, there is an increased risk of developing diabetes by up to 40% (3).

What are the warning signs of diabetes?

Those who have high glucose levels may experience excessive thirst, frequent urination and excessive hunger/increased appetite. Lack of energy, blurred vision, slow healing wounds and numbness in feet and hands are all symptoms of Diabetes.

How can you help family members who are already diagnosed with diabetes?

With daily treatment, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and diet, financial and emotional support and ongoing education of family members on diabetes.


1) Havard T. Chan, School of Public Health (2020). Simple steps to preventing diabetes

2) Saeedi et al (2019). Global and regional diabetes prevalence estimates for 2019 and projections for 2030 and 2045: Results from the International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas, 9th edition. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.diabres.2019.107843

3) U.S Food and Drug Administration (2020). Cigarette Smoking: A Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes.

4) Biofem Group, 2019.

5) Better Health Channel (2014). Diabetes.

6) Healthline (2017). Everything you need to know about Diabetes.

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