Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes may be higher than you think – but reducing your risk could be easier than you imagine.

“Many people do not realise that they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” says Emma Elvin, clinical advisor at the charity Diabetes UK. “Some risk factors, such as ethnicity and family history, cannot be changed, but others, such as poor diet or low levels of physical activity, can be addressed relatively simply. Addressing these can also help manage your weight, which is one of the main reasons people develop Type 2 diabetes”

 

1. Get active, try an app or step-counter

 

Diabetes UK recommends (as does the Government) spending less time sitting down, at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week, and muscle-strengthening exercise on at least two days a week. “Moderate activity makes your heart beat faster and make you slightly out of breath. says Elvin. “If you are pretty inactive now, start by spending less time sitting own and more time walking – gradually build up to 10,000 steps a day.”

Choose an activity that fits into your lifestyle, like swimming, the gym or walking.

Choose an activity that fits easily into your lifestyle, such as swimming, going to the gym or walking. “Almost everyone should be aiming to increase their activity levels, though if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor first,” says Elvin. Step counters and apps that monitor your level of physical activity and exercising with friends can help.

 
 

2. Eat a healthy diet, think about food swaps

 

Eat plenty of fruit and veg, lean protein such as beans, pulses, fish and white meats, low-fat, low sugar dairy, and some wholegrain carbs.

Avoid large amounts of red meat, and especially processed meat products such as pies and sausages.

Reduce your consumption of salt, saturated fat and added sugar and read the labels on processed foods. Going for more ‘greens’ than ‘reds’ on traffic light labels can help making healthier food choices.

Try food swaps. Select a food you enjoy and eat often, such as crisps, and swap them for plain popcorn. “If you snack on chocolate or cereal bars, swap to dark chocolate rice cakes,” says Elvin.

 

3. Set yourself goals and incentives, like Bob!

 

“Set yourself a small achievable goal that can be met quite soon so you get the reward of success quickly. Celebrate with a non-food treat such as a night out. Then set your next achievable goal. This is more motivating than setting yourself one great challenge which is harder to achieve,” says Elvin.

The stories of others' success can be motivating. Bob Swindell, 48, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2013. Determined to lose weight and reduce his need for medication, he started running, using the Couch to 5K programme.

“At first, the thought of running for just a couple of minutes seemed extreme, and I struggled to believe running 5K continuously was even possible for me,” says Bob. At first, he ran furtively and soon his motivation was drifting away.

Then he discovered parkrun events, local running sessions undertaken with others, “Running with others inspired me to keep it up – I’ve been a regular ever since,” says Bob.

“Running has helped me lose 50kg and I have reduced the medication needed to keep my blood glucose levels within my target range.

"I wouldn’t choose to have Type 2 diabetes but discovering running has been my silver lining.”