Take the right steps to
prevent type 2 diabetes

woman stretching

When it comes to diabetes, prevention starts with understanding the condition. Diabetes is a little complex, because there are several different types. The main three are type 1, type 2, and gestational. Each type has a different cause and is linked to different risk factors. However, they all result in an inability to control blood sugar.

Type 2 is the most common, especially in older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 29% of Americans over age 65 have diabetes. In this same age group, the CDC estimates that 50% have prediabetes, a condition where your blood sugar levels are high but not yet diabetic. Since type 2 accounts for 90% - 95% of all diabetes cases, this data is largely indicative of type 2 prevalence.

These rates are substantial for a disease with such major health implications. Type 2 diabetes doesn’t just affect your blood sugar and energy levels. In the long term, it can cause serious  health issues like blindness, nerve damage, and kidney disease. It also raises your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to prevent type 2 diabetes – or even reverse a prediabetes diagnosis. Keep reading to learn how.  

Understand your risk.

Knowing your risk can help you take smarter steps to protect your health. If you’re over 45, you're at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight or obese.
  • Are not physically active.
  • Have prediabetes.
  • Have a mother, father, sister, or brother with diabetes.
  • Had gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
  • Belong to a racial or ethnic group that includes black, Hispanic, Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.

Spot symptoms early.

Be on the lookout for early signs of disease. The sooner you address them, the better chance you have of preventing a diagnosis. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in feet or hands
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Get screened regularly.

Screenings are important for detecting diabetes early. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends blood glucose testing for adults ages 35-70 who are overweight or obese. Your doctor may also order a screening if you’re at higher risk due to other factors, or if you’re experiencing symptoms. Common tests include:

  • A1C test - measures your average blood glucose over the past three months.
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test - measures blood glucose after fasting
  • Random Plasma Glucose (RPG) test - measures your blood glucose without fasting

If your results are negative, plan to repeat the test every one to three years, depending on what your doctor recommends. If you test positive for diabetes or prediabetes, you and your doctor can work on a plan to reverse or manage your diagnosis.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Having a healthy body weight is key to type 2 diabetes prevention. In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, prediabetic participants who were overweight reduced their risk
of type 2 diabetes by up to 58%
  when they lost 7% of their body weight. 

 To reach a healthy weight, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity movement per week, as well as a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Talk to your doctor about how to build healthy habits like these into your daily routine. You should always consult them before starting a new diet or exercise plan. 

 Some Medicare plans may cover additional resources to support your fitness and nutrition goals. Medicare's Diabetes Prevention Program offers up to two years of free sessions for exercise, nutrition, and peer support for eligible members. The Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program gives you free access to exercise and wellness services across the country, as well as at-home fitness kits.

We're here to support you.

Highmark Medicare Advantage plans offer many benefits that make it easier and more affordable for members to manage diabetes, including $0 testing supplies and personalized support programs.

Let Highmark help with finding your Medicare plan

Schedule a personal consultation with a Highmark Medicare advisor or call 866-320-8539 , 7 days a week, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. (ET), (TTY users call 711)

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Highmark Choice Company, Highmark Senior Health Company, and Highmark Senior Solutions Company are Medicare Advantage plans with a Medicare contract. HM Health Insurance Company is a PDP plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Highmark Choice Company, Highmark Senior Health Company, Highmark Senior Solutions Company, and HM Health Insurance Company depends on contract renewal.

Health benefits or health benefit administration may be provided by or through Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Highmark Choice Company, Highmark Senior Health  Company, Highmark Senior Solutions Company, or Highmark Health Insurance Company, all of which are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.  All references to “Highmark” in this document are references to the Highmark company that is providing the member’s health benefits or health benefit administration.