To get started on healthy lifestyle changes that can provide proven health benefits, such as lowering the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, take these steps:

  • If you need to lose weight or think you may be eating the wrong foods, talk to your doctor or consider consulting a registered dietitian or diabetes educator.
  • If you don't get enough physical activity, all it takes is a good pair of walking shoes to get you on the road to fitness. Brisk walking is an excellent form of aerobic exercise, which is any physical activity that increases your breathing rate. Jogging, cycling, swimming and even dancing are great choices, too. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, or 30 minutes on most days. If you do not currently exercise, check with your doctor first.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Moderate alcohol consumption improves insulin sensitivity, while heavy consumption can have the opposite effect.
  • If you smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products and can't quit on your own, talk to your physician. He or she may recommend nicotine-replacement therapy or prescribe medication (such as bupropion or nortriptyline) that helps smokers overcome the craving to light up. Some evidence suggests that counseling and support groups help people kick the habit, too.

Publication Review By: Rita Rastogi Kalyani, M.D., and Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: 22 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 08 Oct 2015