4. Exercise regularly. "Data suggest that even 30-40 minutes of brisk walking, five times a week, can decrease your risk by up to 40 percent," says Robert A. Rizza, M.D., a professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes, metabolism and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Add weight loss to the equation and your risk drops even further: Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases found that when overweight people lost 7-10 percent of their body weight and began taking half-hour walks five days a week, they cut their odds of developing diabetes by 58 percent. It's not just a matter of slimming down, though: "Exercise itself works very well to decrease insulin resistance," Eugene Barrett explains. "If you exercise a muscle, this will cause the muscle to take sugar out of the bloodstream and use it, which causes blood-sugar levels to decline." And it's likely that the lower your blood-sugar levels, the lower your risk for heart disease.
5. Watch your alcohol intake. Among healthy women, moderate drinking (defined as about a glass and a half of wine per day) may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. More than that, however, appears to increase the risk in lean women, though not in those who are overweight. "Because the research has been mixed as far as alcohol goes, it's important not to overindulge," Carole Mensing says. "If you do drink, have food with your alcohol. Abstain if you're starting medication for diabetes or pre-diabetes, or if you have a strong family history of diabetes."
6. Have your blood-sugar level tested. Fasting blood sugar (a measure of your blood-sugar level after you haven't eaten for eight to 12 hours) is considered normal if below 100 milligrams per deciliter, but a person with pre-diabetes has a fasting blood-sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dl, and someone with full-fledged diabetes has blood sugar measuring 126 mg/dl or above. "If you have pre-diabetes, you need to know so you can take steps to prevent full-blown diabetes," Kaufman explains. "The pre-diabetic condition can be reversed, and people can go back to normal blood-sugar status. Once you get diabetes, however, reversing it is a lot harder."