One of the best health strategies is to prevent illness before it happens, especially when it comes to type 2 diabetes. While our genetics are hard wired, there are steps you can take to prevent diabetes and reduce your risk.

In fact, before type 2 diabetes is diagnosed there’s a period called prediabetes, when blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Without action, prediabetes often becomes type 2 diabetes within five years. In fact, up to 70 percent of people with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and other serious conditions. But, progressing from prediabetes to diabetes isn’t inevitable. Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) recommends the following five steps to help you prevent diabetes.

Let’s begin by learning your risk for type 2 diabetes by taking the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA’s) simple and fast ADA Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. No matter your results, YRMC’s five steps are a great way to help prevent diabetes or delay its progression.

Step 1: Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables
Green vegetables – leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), and others – are the most important foods to focus on for diabetes prevention. Non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggplant and peppers are also well-known diabetes fighters.

What else should you include in your diabetes-prevention diet?

  • Beans, lentils and other legumes
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Fresh fruits

YRMC’s online cooking show, Your Healthy Kitchen, has excellent cooking videos and tasty recipes that help prevent diabetes.

Step 2: Exercise regularly
Get active to prevent diabetes. Exercise lowers your blood glucose, blood pressure and does a world of good for your health. So while you’re exercising to reduce your risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, you’ll also lower your chance for heart disease and stroke. And, you’ll build stronger bones. Experts recommend:

  • Continuous activity during the day—walk to lunch, take the stairs, keep moving
  • Aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or swimming laps
  • Strength training, such as lifting light weights
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises

Check out the fitness classes – SilverSneakers®, Silver&Fit® and Fitness Plus Silver Sneakers – available through YRMC’s Preventive Medicine and Wellness program.

Step 3: Drink water
Set aside soda, sugar-heavy coffee and fruit drinks for good old water. Sticking with water as your primary beverage helps you avoid soda, which is high in sugar, preservatives and other questionable ingredients. Water also won’t pack on the pounds, like soda and most anything that includes the word “latte” or “frappe.” Water is the most natural beverage you can drink.

Step 4: Lose those extra pounds
Nine in 10 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or are considered obese. Carrying extra weight – particularly in the abdominal area – increases your chances of developing diabetes and heart disease.

The good news? Losing weight may significantly reduce your risk of diabetes. If you have prediabetes, or you are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, decreasing your weight by about 10 percent can reverse your diabetes. For many people, that can mean dropping no more than 10 or 15 pounds.

Step 5: Quit smoking
You knew it was going to find its way on this list. Yes, people who smoke are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, people with diabetes who smoke are more likely to have difficulty controlling their disease.

Ready to quit smoking? Learn about free programs offered by the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline online at the ASHLine or by calling 1-800-556-6222.

There are other benefits linked to following these diabetes prevention steps. You’ll reduce your chances for developing heart disease and lung cancer, enhance your overall health, increase your energy and build your strength. That’s five steps with tons of health benefits.