Can you reduce your risk of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. But up to 80 per cent of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by making simple changes in our everyday lives.

What causes diabetes?

In Type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells, but currently the cause remains uncertain.

Type 2 diabetes is a little more complex. It's the combination of our genes and our lifestyle that influences the development of Type 2 diabetes and puts us at risk.

Find out if you are at risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is not caused by:

  • Viruses or germs – you cannot catch diabetes like a cold
  • Stress, although it may make the symptoms worse in people who already have the condition
  • An accident or an illness; however, this may reveal the condition if it is already present.

How can I reduce my risk?

The good news is that we can all make small changes to help us reduce our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.


Some of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes – such as age, ethnic background, or family history – can’t be changed, but others can.

Some people who are overweight won't develop Type 2 diabetes, whilst others who are of a healthy weight, might. But managing your weight, eating well and being active are the best ways to reduce your risk.

Small steps can make a big difference. For example, if you are overweight, losing about 5 per cent of your body weight can greatly reduce your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Every kilogram you lose can reduce your risk by up to 15 per cent.

There are lots of resources on this site that can help you reduce your risk:

You can also talk to your GP to find out if there are any local services they can refer you to. This could be a dietitian, an exercise programme or a weight-loss programme.


NHS Health Check

If you are aged between 40 and 74, and live in England, you may be invited to attend an NHS Health Check every five years. This may be with your GP, a practice nurse or in the the community at a pharmacy or leisure centre.

During the check they will assess your risk of Type 2 diabetes and other diseases related to your heart, and you can discuss what services and activities are available to support you to lose weight and reduce your risk of these conditions. Find out more about the NHS Health Check on the NHS Choices website.