NIDDK Director's Update Winter 2021

Health Information Updates

Small steps can make a big difference in preventing diabetes

NDM Banner displaying "Small steps, big difference: preventing diabetes is within your reach."

Prediabetes is a serious medical condition that, if untreated, increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. However, by making some healthy lifestyle changes, prediabetes may be managed or even reversed and these changes can lower the chance of developing into type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes affects approximately 88 million U.S. adults and occurs when blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is higher than what is considered normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Most people with prediabetes are not aware that they have it, and they usually experience no symptoms. Risk factors for prediabetes include people who have overweight or obesity, are 45 years old or older, have a parent or sibling with diabetes, or are from certain racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“People with risk factors for prediabetes should seek to learn if they have the condition,” said NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers. “Even small steps to improve health and manage prediabetes can make a big difference in reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes.”

Here are some actions to take to improve health and lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Ask a doctor for a blood glucose test to find out if you have prediabetes.
  • If weight loss is needed, try focusing on losing a small amount of weight. The NIDDK’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) found that people who increased physical activity and healthy eating resulting in a modest weight loss, could lower their type 2 diabetes risk. The results from the DPP helped the CDC build the National Diabetes Prevention Program, a lifestyle program for people at risk for type 2 diabetes available across the country.
  • Become more physically active with short daily walks or fun activities like dancing or riding a bike.
  • Try to spend less time sitting and watching television, playing videogames, or using social media.
  • Swap sugary snacks for healthy fruits, vegetables, or nuts. Or try trading white bread and white rice for high-fiber options, like whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Use a food and drink diary or a smartphone app to keep track of food and drinks. It can help see eating patterns or foods and beverages high in fat or calories.
  • Try to quit smoking. Talk to a doctor or visit https://smokefree.gov/ for tools and tips on how to become tobacco-free.
  • Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
  • Take other steps to stay healthy. For instance, getting the COVID-19 and flu vaccines (and COVID-19 booster, if eligible) is highly important, especially for people who may be more likely to get sick from COVID-19, such as older adults and people who already have diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.

You don’t need to make all these changes at once. Any step toward being healthier is a step in the right direction. And don’t be afraid to ask a doctor or loved ones for support. No one is alone in this journey. To learn more, visit the NIDDK webpage Preventing Type 2 Diabetes.

How does gastroparesis affect people with diabetes?

Woman holding stomach in pain.

Diabetes is the most common known cause of gastroparesis, a digestive disorder that may lead to poor nutrition and problems managing blood glucose. Learn more about gastroparesis on NIDDK’s Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog. There, Dr. Adil E. Bharucha—an author of the chapter, “Gastrointestinal Manifestations of Diabetes,” in the NIDDK’s Diabetes in America, 3rd Edition—shares expertise on the relationship between gastroparesis and blood glucose levels; how to identify, diagnose and treat gastroparesis; and current research from his program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

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