Harvard Men's Health Watch

Preventing diabetes: An action plan

America is in the grip of a diabetic epidemic. About 21 million of us have the disease, and many more have pre-diabetes. And all the indications suggest that the prevalence of diabetes will continue to soar in the years ahead.

Elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels define diabetes. A fasting blood sugar reading of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher is enough to diagnose the disease, and levels between 100 and 126 indicate pre-diabetes. But since diabetes is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, visual loss, and memory loss, it's much more than a simple blood sugar problem.

Treatment can help protect diabetics from many of the complications that cause disability and premature death. But preventing diabetes from developing in the first place is even better. And while treating the disease usually requires multiple medications, prevention can be accomplished without drugs. To be most effective, though, prevention requires multiple lifestyle modifications. Here is a rundown of the things that matter most and the little things that may help a bit more.

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