Although management of diabetes mellitus is improving, inadequately managed cases still exist. Prevention of diabetes mellitus requires an integrated and holistic approach based on the origin of the disease. In Europe only half of diagnosed patients with diabetes mellitus have good glycaemic control. Inadequate glycaemic control is significantly increasing the use of healthcare resources, the medical costs and mortality rates. A review was conducted in order to summarise and discuss central themes for prevention. A search of the databases PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane and Google Scholar between January 2010–May 2019 was undertaken. The following keywords: ‘diabetes mellitus’, ‘cardiovascular diseases’, ‘empowerment’, ‘self-management education’ and ‘lifestyle factors’ were used in different combinations to identify eligible articles. Important variables for the prevention of diabetes mellitus and its complications are self-management of diabetes mellitus and the management of risk factors. Education and support for self-management are fundamental when caring for people with a chronic disease like diabetes mellitus. In order to achieve effective self-management including lifestyle modification it is also crucial to motivate people. In this review, the role of the three main pillars in diabetes care are identified and discussed; patient empowerment, self-management education and lifestyle modification in the management of people with diabetes mellitus.