12 Ways to Avoid Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is preventable.

ByABC News
January 19, 2012, 9:25 AM

Jan. 19, 2012— -- intro: Nearly 25 percent of Americans are thought to have prediabetes -- a condition of slightly elevated blood sugar levels that often develops into diabetes within 10 years -- but only 4 percent of people know it. What's worse, of those who are aware, less than half really tried to reduce their risk by losing weight, eating less, and exercising more.

These are just a few of the good-for-you habits that can reverse prediabetes and ensure you never get the real thing, which can mean a lifetime of drugs and blood sugar monitoring, an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other scary health threats. Read on for 12 simple tricks everyone can start today.

More from Prevention:

quicklist: 1category: 12 Ways to Avoid Diabetestitle: Nudge the Scaleurl: text: Shedding even 10 pounds can significantly slash your risk.

Even extremely overweight people were 70 percent less likely to develop diabetes when they lost just 5 percent of their weight -- even if they didn't exercise. If you weigh 175 pounds, that's a little less than 9 pounds! Use our calorie calculator to see how many calories you consume -- and how many you need to shave off your diet -- if you want to lose a little.

quicklist: 2category: 12 Ways to Avoid Diabetestitle: Pick the Right Appetizerurl: text: Eating greens with a vinaigrette before a starchy entrée may help control your blood sugar levels.

In an Arizona State University study, people with type 2 diabetes or a precursor condition called insulin resistance had lower blood sugar levels if they consumed about 2 tablespoons of vinegar just before a high-carb meal. "Vinegar contains acetic acid, which may inactivate certain starch-digesting enzymes, slowing carbohydrate digestion," said lead researcher Carol Johnston. In fact, vinegar's effects may be similar to those of the blood sugar -- lowering medication acarbose (Precose).

Before you eat that fettuccine, enjoy a salad with this dressing: Whisk 3 tablespoons vinegar, 2 tablespoons flaxseed oil, 1 clove garlic (crushed), 1/4 teaspoon honey, 3 tablespoons yogurt, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. (Makes four 2-tablespoon servings.)

More from Prevention:

quicklist: 3category: 12 Ways to Avoid Diabetestitle: Ditch Your Carurl: text: Walk as much as you can every day. You'll be healthier -- even if you don't lose any weight

People in a Finnish study who exercised the most -- up to 4 hours a week, or about 35 minutes a day -- dropped their risk of diabetes by 80 percent, even if they didn't lose any weight. This pattern holds up in study after study: The famed Nurses' Health Study, for example, found that women who worked up a sweat more than once a week reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 30 percent. And Chinese researchers determined that people with high blood sugar who engaged in moderate exercise (and made other lifestyle changes) were 40 percent less likely to develop full-blown diabetes.

Why is walking so wonderful? Studies show that exercise helps your body utilize the hormone insulin more efficiently by increasing the number of insulin receptors on your cells. Insulin helps blood sugar move into cells, where it needs to go to provide energy and nutrition. Otherwise it just sloshes around in your bloodstream, gumming up blood vessel walls and eventually causing serious health problems.