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Call us toll-free† at
1-877-510-510-2 to speak directly with a Registered Dietitian.

What you need to know to prevent Type 2 diabetes


Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes today. The good news is that there are ways to prevent diabetes. Read on to learn the basics about diabetes and how to lower your risk. 

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body cannot manage blood glucose well.
When we eat, carbohydrate in food is digested and turned into sugar or glucose. Glucose then gets absorbed into our blood. The glucose goes from our blood into our cells with help from a hormone called insulin (insulin is made in the pancreas). We then use the glucose in our cells for energy. 
If you have diabetes, your body cannot move glucose from your blood into your cells well. This may happen because:

  • your pancreas cannot make any insulin or enough insulin
  • your cells stop the insulin and glucose cannot enter your cells

When glucose cannot go into your cells, it stays in the blood causing high blood glucose levels or “high blood sugar.” 

Am I at risk for Type 2 diabetes? 

You are at higher risk for diabetes if you:

  • Are a member of a high risk ethnic group (including being Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian or African)
  • Have family members with diabetes
  • Are 40 or older
  • Are overweight or obese, especially around the belly area
  • Have low physical activity
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes) or gave birth to a baby over 4 kg (9 lbs) 

Talk about these risk factors and others with your health care provider.

What can I do to prevent diabetes? 

Make healthy food choices

Eating healthy and nutritious food is an important way you can help prevent diabetes. View our Diabetes Menu Plan that is designed to prevent and manage diabetes. The menu plan includes seven days of meals and snacks and a tip sheet to help build the plan to suit your tastes.
Both the type and amount of food you eat are important. Learn more here:
Canada’s Food Guide
Just the basics
Understanding portion sizes
Call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2 if you have questions about healthy eating and diabetes.  Visit Dietitians of Canada to find a Registered Dietitian in your area.

Be active

Try to be active for at least 150 minutes/week. That’s about 30 minutes/day on five days of the week. You can start with 10 minutes at a time.
Make sure to do both resistance exercise (like lifting weights) and aerobic exercise (like walking, swimming or playing sports). Choose activities that you enjoy and can do with your family.
If you are new to physical activity, speak to your health care provider before getting started. For more tips read Physical Activity and Diabetes.

Manage your weight

If you are overweight or obese, losing even 5 percent of your body weight can help prevent pre-diabetes from developing into diabetes.

For tips on losing weight in a healthy way, read: Weight Control Strategies that Work and Healthy Eating for a Healthy Waist.

Is diabetes serious?

Yes. If diabetes is not managed well, high blood glucose can lead to other health conditions like:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye disease
  • Nerve damage

Should I get screened? 

If you are over 40 years old and have some of the risk factors above, speak to your doctor about being screened for diabetes. Screening includes a simple blood test to see how much glucose is in your blood.

Where can I go for help?

If you have questions about healthy eating and diabetes call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2. You can also speak with your health care provider. 

Bottom line

Diabetes is a serious condition, but it can be prevented. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet and being physically active are two things you can do to help prevent diabetes.

You may also be interested in 

The Diabetes Education Centre – What you need to know
Diabetes glossary
Lower your risk of diabetes-related complications

Copyright © Dietitians of Canada 2014. All rights reserved.

Dietitians of Canada acknowledges the financial support of EatRight Ontario by the Ontario government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.