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Information from Your Family Doctor

Taking Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes


Am Fam Physician. 2004 Apr 15;69(8):1971-1972.

What is type 2 diabetes? What is prediabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. High blood sugar can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision loss. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.

Before people get type 2 diabetes, they usually go through a prediabetic stage. Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG) are the two kinds of prediabetes. In people with IGT and IFG, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to say they have diabetes. People with prediabetes have a high risk of getting diabetes. They also are more likely to have a heart attack.

How can my doctor tell if I have prediabetes or diabetes?

Your doctor can use a blood test to see if you have diabetes or prediabetes.

Who is at risk for getting prediabetes and diabetes?

You are at risk for getting prediabetes or diabetes if:

  • You are overweight or obese.

  • You have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes.

  • You were diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy or had a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds at birth.

  • You belong to any of the following ethnic groups: black, Native American, Latin American, or Asian/Pacific Islander.

  • You have high blood pressure (above 140/90 mm Hg).

  • Your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level (good cholesterol) is less than 40 mg per dL (for men) or less than 50 mg per dl (for women), or your triglyceride level is higher than 250 mg per dL.

What can I do to prevent diabetes?

By making changes in your lifestyle, you can lower your risk of getting diabetes. If you are overweight, losing 5 to 7 percent of your total body weight can help. Losing weight also will lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Exercise of any kind can lower your risk of getting diabetes. Your exercise routine should include 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times a week. Be sure to stay at an exercise level that your doctor says is safe for you.

Following a healthy diet also can help. Eat foods like salads, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry, and other meats. Don't eat a lot of white sugar, honey, or molasses. Eat foods made with whole grains instead of white flour.

Less than 30 percent of your total daily calories should come from fat. Less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat. Carbohydrates should make up 50 to 60 percent of your total daily calories. Your diet also should include at least 20 grams of fiber per day.

Your doctor might refer you to a dietitian or diabetic educator for help in changing your eating habits.

Can diabetes medicines help prevent or delay diabetes?

Diabetes medicines are not as effective as diet and exercise. Your doctor might prescribe a diabetes medicine if you are at high risk for diabetes and have other medical problems, such as obesity, a high triglyceride level, a low HDL cholesterol level, or high blood pressure.

Where can I get more information?

American Diabetes Association

ATTN: National Call Center

1701 North Beauregard Street

Alexandria, VA 22311

Web site address:

Telephone: 1–800–DIABETES (1–800–342–2383)

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

1 Information Way

Bethesda, MD 20892–3560

Web site address:

Telephone: 1–800–860–8747

National Diabetes Education Program

Office of Communications and Public Liaison

NIDDK, NIH, Building 31, Room 9A04 Center Drive, MSC 2560

Bethesda, MD 20892–3560

Web site address:

CDC Diabetes Public Health Resource

CDC Division of Diabetes Translation

PO. Box 8728

Silver Spring, MD 20910

Web site address:

Telephone: Toll free 1–877–CDC-DIAB (877–232–3422)

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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