Can diabetes be prevented?

More than 18 million people in the United States have diabetes. By 2050, an estimated 39 million U.S. residents are expected to have diagnosed diabetes.

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults, the leading cause of kidney failure and limb amputations, and is a major cause of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes are also more susceptible to other illnesses and are more likely to die from pneumonia and influenza.

Type 2 diabetes (previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes) accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has tripled in the past 30 years. While genetics may certainly play a role, the increase in type 2 diabetes is also strongly associated with increases in obesity, lack of physical activity and the average American's increased consumption of fatty foods, says the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

An estimated 41 million Americans have a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes - a condition known as pre-diabetes. You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if:

• You are overweight

• You are 45 years old or older

• You have a parent or sibling with diabetes

• Your family background is African American, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino American, Asian American or Pacific Islander

• You have had gestational diabetes or gave birth to at least one baby weighing more than nine pounds

• Your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, or you have been told that you have high blood pressure

• Your HDL cholesterol is 35 or lower, or your triglyceride level is 250 or higher

• You are physically active fewer than three times a week

Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Prevented?

The Diabetes Prevention

Program, a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, found that people at increased risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing just 5 to 7 percent of their body weight through increased physical activity and a reduced fat and lower calorie diet.