As the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S., diabetes is one of today’s most prominent health concerns. While type 1 diabetes is related to genetics, type 2 diabetes is a preventable condition, giving you the agency to take action against it. Over the course of a lifetime, these preventative actions can prove instrumental in protecting your health and longevity.

Consider these proven methods to reduce your risk of developing diabetes:

Weight Management

The first and most widely recommended way to prevent diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight. In one study, people lowered their risk of diabetes by nearly 60% by losing around 7% of their body weight. Of course, maintaining your ideal weight is much easier said than done, so let’s consider a few actionable steps.

Reconsider Your Relationship With Food.

To make a long-lasting change in your dietary habits, consider gradually changing how you approach food. Simple adjustments like eating slowly, finding healthy foods that you truly enjoy, and even meditating can improve your approach to food.

Eating slowly, though it may sound simple, can help you feel fuller sooner. It also promotes mindful eating, which is thought to be associated with weight loss.

Focus on Your Carb Intake.

A complete diet overhaul can be overwhelming. However, focusing on one aspect of your diet such as carb intake, is a more manageable step.

When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which increases your blood sugar levels. In response to this increase, your pancreas produces insulin. With a high-carb diet, your body’s cells can become resistant to insulin – also known as prediabetes.

Refined or simple carbs, like white bread and white pasta, cause a sharper spike in blood sugar than complex carbs. Try to swap out the simple carbs in your cupboard for complex alternatives, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, bulgar wheat, oats, barley, and buckwheat.

Candy, pastries, soda, fruit juice, and syrup are other examples of simple carbs to limit in your diet for steady blood sugar levels.

Add Fiber-Rich Foods to Your Diet.

Increasing your fiber intake can support your weight loss efforts while reducing your risk of diabetes. The human body can’t break down and absorb fiber, so it helps keep you fuller for longer. In the context of diabetes prevention, fiber makes your body absorb sugar more slowly, helping to prevent sudden spikes.

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are among the best natural sources of dietary fiber.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.

Drinking more water is one of the most basic health tips that we hear today. For anyone looking to maintain a healthy weight, it’s advice worth heeding.

In a study of 48 adults aged between 55 and 75, the participants who drank two glasses of water before meals lost more weight than those who didn’t. The secret? Water fills up the stomach, but doesn’t contain any calories. This makes people feel fuller, even though they’re consuming fewer calories.

If you struggle to drink water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your glass to entice your palate. Just remember that water can’t be exchanged for soda or juice – these drinks are dense in calories and can quickly spike your blood sugar.

Avoid Skipping Meals.

If you’re trying to lose weight, skipping meals may seem like a decent strategy. However, the opposite is true. When you skip a meal, your body will start to crave calorie-dense foods as a natural survival response. These cravings can sabotage your efforts to maintain a balanced diet.

Skip The Fad Diets.

Trendy diets don’t typically support lasting weight loss or diabetes prevention. To follow one of these fad diets, you’ll probably need to make sudden, even extreme changes to your diet. These shifts are innately difficult to stick to, especially when day-to-day stressors rear their ugly heads.

Instead, aim for consistency by sticking to the tried-and-true method of eating fewer calories than you burn.

Talk to a Doctor for Support.

Weight loss can be challenging, not only physically, but also psychologically. Ensure that you have the support that you need in your circle of loved ones, and consider talking to a doctor for added help. A qualified physician can help you throughout your weight loss journey, offering encouragement, motivation, and expert advice on how to move forward with your unique body composition.

Regular Exercise

Along with a balanced diet, regular exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. It can also prevent diabetes by increasing your insulin sensitivity and lowering your blood sugar for up to a full day.

There are multiple types of exercise, and your body responds differently to each one. The forms of physical activity that have been shown to benefit diabetes patients include aerobic exercise, strength training, and HIIT workouts.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is defined as any form of physical activity that increases your heart rate. In addition to improving your cardiovascular health and contributing to weight loss, aerobic exercise has been found to improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes patients.

The greatest benefit from aerobic exercise is seen when patients exercise for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week. If you’re just getting started with a regular exercise plan, try splitting up these minutes into short daily workouts. 30 minutes of daily exercise, 5 days a week would bring you to this goal.

Aerobic exercise comes in many forms, so you’re likely to find an option that you enjoy. Here’s a list of some of the most popular aerobic workouts:

  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Brisk walking
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Zumba
  • Dancing
  • Rowing
  • Using an elliptical machine
  • Kickboxing

Strength Training

Strength or resistance training causes your muscles to contract. As the name suggests, it’s ideal for building strength and endurance. Plus, though it doesn’t get your blood pumping as much as aerobic exercise, strength training ramps up your metabolism for hours after the workout, helping you burn more calories throughout the day.

Clinical research has found strength training to be effective in improving insulin sensitivity when it’s done regularly. However, it’s important to note that if you stop doing strength training, you’ll lose the benefit that it has on insulin action.

HIIT Workouts

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. This type of workout involves short periods of intense physical activity alternated by recovery periods. Each period lasts for only a few minutes, so HIIT is a great workout option if you’re crunched for time.

A 2018 study found that HIIT provided superior results for physical fitness, glycemic control, and body composition in type 2 diabetes patients when compared to endurance training. To reap these benefits, you can take advantage of the numerous free HIIT workout videos available online, or even engage in short bursts of exercise in any form. Even short periods of brisk walking can help improve your physical fitness over time.

Quitting Smoking

It’s widely understood that smoking can compromise your health and longevity. However, some people don’t realize that there’s a direct link between smoking and insulin resistance.

Nicotine diminishes your cells’ ability to use insulin, eventually leading to insulin resistance. This effect is exacerbated by the range of chemicals in cigarettes, which can trigger inflammation. According to the CDC, smokers have a 30 to 40% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-smokers.

With these facts in mind, quitting smoking is one of the best choices that you can make to prevent diabetes. Unfortunately, like losing weight, it’s much easier said than done. Here’s what the experts recommend to quit smoking (and never look back):

  • Replace cigarette breaks with healthy habits, like exercising, meditating, or journaling. Taking a walk around the block or a few deep breaths can distract you from the craving while naturally lowering your stress levels. This tip is particularly helpful for those who smoke to deal with their stress.
  • For many, smoking is in part a physical fixation. So, give your mouth something else to do whenever you crave a cigarette. This may be chewing gum, sucking on a peppermint, or crunching on a healthy snack, like baby carrots or nuts.
  • Recognize and avert possible triggers, like hanging out at a bar or chatting with a fellow smoker. Avoiding these scenarios can reduce your risk of a relapse.
  • Talk to your doctor about available nicotine replacement options, like nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, and even prescription nicotine. A few nicotine-free prescription medications are also available to help you quit, such as Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL.
  • Gather a circle of support, including friends, family, a trusted physician, or even a dedicated support group. Stress can make quitting smoking a challenge, but loved ones can provide motivation and encouragement.

Lifelong Habits to Prevent Diabetes

The tips listed above aren’t intended to be quick fixes or one-and-done solutions. Over decades, these habits can protect you from the dangers of insulin sensitivity while enhancing your overall wellness. These preventative measures as an investment in your long-term health no matter what your age.