Can Diabetes Be Prevented?

Can Diabetes Be Prevented?

If you play sports, chances are you slide on a facemask, strap on a shin guard, or stretch before a practice or game to prevent injuries. You can't predict what will happen in every situation, but a lot of times, taking a few safety precautions can save you some pain.

Taking some preventive steps sometimes works for health problems like diabetes, too. The things you do now could help prevent problems later, depending on the type of diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. Your body needs glucose to keep running. Here's how it should work.

  1. You eat.
  2. Glucose from the food gets into your bloodstream.
  3. Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin.
  4. Insulin helps the glucose get into the body's cells.
  5. Your body gets the energy it needs.

The pancreas is a long, flat gland in your belly that helps your body digest food. It also makes insulin. Insulin is kind of like a key that opens the doors to the cells of the body. It lets the glucose in. Then the glucose can move out of the blood and into the cells.

But if someone has diabetes, the body either can't make insulin (this is called type 1 diabetes) or the insulin doesn't work in the body like it should (this is called type 2 diabetes). The glucose can't get into the cells normally, so the blood sugar level gets too high. Lots of sugar in the blood makes people sick if they don't get treatment.

Type 1 Diabetes Can't Be Prevented

Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and who won't.

In type 1 diabetes, a person's immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells that make insulin. No one knows for sure why this happens, but scientists think it has something to do with genes. Genes are like instructions for how the body should look and work that are passed on by parents to their kids. But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. In most cases, something else has to happen — like getting a virus infection — for a person to get type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes isn't contagious, so you can't catch it from another person or pass it along to your friends. And stuff like eating too much sugar doesn't cause type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Prevented

Type 2 diabetes is different. Sometimes, you can prevent type 2 diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can still make insulin, but the body doesn't respond to it in the right way. This problem is usually related to being overweight. In the past, mainly overweight adults developed type 2 diabetes. Today, more kids and teens have type 2 diabetes, probably because more kids and teens are overweight.

Getting to a healthy weight is one way to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Making healthy food choices and getting enough exercise are other good steps to take. If a person makes better food choices and becomes more physically active, it can help prevent diabetes from becoming a problem.

Some people are more likely to get type 2 diabetes than others based on things that can't be changed. For example, people with a Native American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian/Pacific Islander racial/ethnic background are at higher risk for getting type 2 diabetes. And people who have family members with type 2 diabetes are also more likely to develop it.

Taking Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

If you want to help keep yourself from getting type 2 diabetes — or just be healthier in lots of other ways — take these steps:

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





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Related Resources
OrganizationNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.
OrganizationAmerican Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.
Web SiteChildren With Diabetes This website offers true stories about kids and teens who have diabetes.
Web SiteJoslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.
OrganizationJuvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.
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