U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Take Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Diabetes (“dy-ah-BEE-teez”) is a leading cause of disability and death in the United States. If it’s not managed, diabetes can cause serious health problems.

There’s no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed. Unmanaged diabetes increases the risk of:

  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke

The good news is that you can do a lot to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes, including:

  • Watching your weight
  • Eating healthy
  • Staying active

To get started, make your game plan to prevent type 2 diabetes [PDF - 7 MB].

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The Basics: Types of Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease. People with diabetes have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood.

Your body depends on glucose for energy. When you eat, most of the food turns into glucose. Your blood carries the glucose to other parts of your body.

When you have diabetes, your body has trouble turning glucose into energy. Instead of being used by your body, the glucose builds up in your blood. The rest of your body is starved of energy.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. People who are overweight are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.

What are the other types of diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes is caused by a problem with the immune system (the system that helps fight infection). Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented.
  • Gestational (“jes-TAY-shon-al”) diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes increases the risk for developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.
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The Basics: Am I at Risk?

Am I at risk for type 2 diabetes?

You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are age 40 or older
  • Are overweight
  • Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Have had gestational diabetes or have had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds at birth.
  • Have high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Exercise less than 3 times a week
  • Have prediabetes

What is prediabetes?

People with prediabetes have more glucose in their blood than normal, but not enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, like heart disease and stroke. Find out more about prediabetes.

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The Basics: Signs

What are the signs of diabetes?

Many people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Some signs of diabetes include:

  • Being very thirsty or very hungry
  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Urinating (going to the bathroom) more than usual
  • Losing weight for no reason
  • Having cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Having trouble seeing (blurry vision)
  • Losing feeling or having tingling in your hands or feet

Not everyone who has diabetes has these signs. If you have any of these signs or think you may be at risk, talk with your doctor about getting tested for diabetes.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Talk to Your Doctor

Take these steps to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Talk to a doctor about your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Use this tool to find out if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Print out the results and take them to your next checkup.

Find out if you need to get tested for diabetes.

If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, ask your doctor about getting tested. People ages 40 to 70 who are overweight or obese need to get tested for diabetes. Your doctor can tell you how often to get tested.

Your doctor may also recommend you get tested if you are younger than age 40 and at risk for other health reasons, like having high blood pressure or having a family member with type 2 diabetes.

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Take Action: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover:

  • Diabetes screening for adults with high blood pressure
  • Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease

Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. 

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

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Take Action: Food and Physical Activity

Eat healthy.

Eating healthy foods can help you control your weight – and help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium (salt). Try these healthy recipes.

Get active.

Getting active can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or biking.

If you have a health condition or disability, be as active as you can be. Use these tips to stay active with a disability. Your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you.

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Take Action: Healthy Weight

Watch your weight.

Studies show that if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can lower your risk. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, 7 percent of your body weight is 14 pounds.

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Use this food and activity tracking tool to record your weight, what you eat, and how active you are each day.

You can also use a notebook or journal to keep a record of:

  • All the meals and snacks you eat each day
  • The number of calories and grams of fat in your food
  • How many minutes of physical activity you do each day
  • Your weight each time you weigh yourself  

Check out these other tips to help you reach a healthy weight.

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Take Action: Know Your Numbers

Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. 

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