Today is World Health Day, the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation. This year the focus is on stopping the worldwide rise of type 2 diabetes. Where type 1 diabetes is not preventable, it is estimated that up to 58% of cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of our genes and our lifestyle, and while we can’t change our genes we can all change our lifestyle.

The World Health Organisation estimates that around 90% of all diabetes worldwide is type 2. There has also been a worrying increase in type 2 diabetes in children worldwide. In some countries almost half of newly diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes are in children and adolescents. It is more important than ever that we all take action to halt the growth of this preventable disease which can cause the loss of sight or limbs, and can eventually kill us.

Type 2 diabetes is now being referred to as a worldwide epidemic, and it is easily traced back to rapid increases in people being overweight. By 2030 diabetes is predicted to become the 7th leading cause of death in the world. Considering the large percentage of diabetes cases that are avoidable, this is shocking.

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes?

There are several things we can all do to lower our risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

Get more Exercise 

Yes, we know that exercise comes up whenever we talk about preventing any disease – but there’s a reason for that! Being active really can help to prevent so many illnesses, and type 2 diabetes is one of them. Exercising doesn’t have to mean running a marathon or swimming the Channel; it’s all about being active every day, from walking the dog to going for a bike ride. The trick is to find a form of exercise that you really enjoy – and then it will be easy to stay active.

Eat Well

We’re not saying everyone should give up chocolate and live solely on mung beans and hummus; going to the extreme in healthy eating usually only works on a very short term basis. It’s about making small changes to our diets that we can maintain on a long term basis: cutting back sugar; increasing our vegetable intake; swapping white bread for wholegrain. This needs to be a permanent change rather than a quick fix, so it’s better to make small, gradual changes. For example, could you cut out the sugar in your morning cuppa, and have more milk instead? There is lactose in milk so it’s naturally sweet and better for you than a heaped spoon of sugar.

Maintain a Normal Body Weight

Whenever you talk about a “normal” body weight there’s always the question of BMI, and then someone always mentions that muscle weighs more than fat, and so on. The fact remains though, that a growing percentage of the population is obese. And while it doesn’t do any good to live and die by the scale, it can give us a good idea of whether we’re on the right path with regard to our health. If you are living an active life and eating well, your weight should soon stop being an issue.

Give up Smoking

There is so much help available to help smokers quit these days, and we all know it’s incredibly unhealthy; not just for the smoker but for everyone around them. We all know that smoking increases our risk of lung cancer, but smoking is also proven to be a risk factor in insulin resistance which is a sort of “pre diabetes” when our bodies become unable to use insulin properly.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease of the 21st century, and it is getting out of hand. We are all responsible for our own well being, and we are all able to do something to ensure we do not develop diabetes. The best thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing diabetes is to make changes to your diet and lifestyle now, before your doctor finds that you are in the first stages of insulin resistance. We can all think of at least one change we could make today to make ourselves more healthy; as today is World Health Day, let’s make that change together.