Diabetes mellitus – also called “diabetes” or, colloquially, the “sugar disease” – is a chronic metabolic disease characterised by elevated blood sugar levels. The disease usually occurs in early childhood or adolescence (type 1), or adulthood as acquired diabetes (type 2).
During pregnancy or after taking certain medications, the blood sugar level may also temporarily increase and require treatment.
The following information concerns type 2 diabetes, where the pancreas continues to produce insulin but in insufficient quantity, or the body can no longer effectively use it to convert blood sugar into energy. This type of diabetes is more common in the second half of life and, increasingly, in younger people with severe overweight.
In addition to factors such as age, gender and genetic predisposition, there are other risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes that can be minimised by adopting a healthy lifestyle:
Blood sugar measurement for prevention: Every three years for men and women over the age of 45; for high-risk patients (e.g. diabetes in the family, high blood pressure, severe overweight), as recommended by the doctor.
Reduce excess weight and change your diet: Nutrition counselling makes sense. You will learn what to consider in terms of eating and drinking in everyday life, and how you can implement the dietary recommendations. In principle, with an increased risk of diabetes, the rules of a healthy diet apply: a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish and seafood as well as a moderate amount of dairy products, meat and cereals (rice, bread, pasta). Olive oil serves as the main fat source. Nuts, legumes and fresh herbs complete the diet.
Exercise: Physical training should be composed of strength and endurance sports, and include flexibility exercises. Overall, the following applies: It is better to be active several times a week for a short time rather than just once a weekend for a long time. Move as much as possible in everyday life – for example, take shorter trips by bike instead of by car.
Empirical data show that people who succeed in implementing these recommendations are less likely to develop diabetes in their lifetime or at an older age.
Pre-existing cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, or elevated cholesterol levels should be kept within the normal range under medical supervision.
For the treatment of type 2 diabetes, please observe these principles:
Nutrition: The Mediterranean diet is suitable for achieving a stable blood sugar level and protecting the blood vessels. The increase in blood sugar levels after a meal is determined by the amount of carbohydrates absorbed. The higher the carbohydrate content of a meal, the more the blood sugar level rises. Simple sugars (e.g. in sweets) are absorbed quickly into the blood, but complex sugars (e.g. in wholemeal bread) are absorbed at a slower rate.
Exercise: Physical activity is highly recommended, as it has a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. It also improves insulin sensitivity, helps with weight loss, and counteracts high blood pressure.
Medication: If the increased blood sugar levels cannot be normalised by a change in lifestyle and weight reduction, tablets (antidiabetics) are used. If the blood sugar cannot be stabilised this way, a therapy involving insulin will be necessary. For this, it is important that you implement the medication and nutritional recommendations in close consultation with your doctors.
Body weight: Even a moderate weight reduction of a few kilograms can stabilise the blood sugar level and possibly lower it. Consequently, less medication is necessary.
Skin monitoring: Check the skin on your feet and legs every day. It makes sense to have a medical pedicure carried out by a podiatrist. In people with diabetes, nerves and blood vessels can become damaged. This can make wounds harder to heal, and the healing process takes longer. Damaged nerves and blood vessels also alter the sensations, so you may notice skin damage to the feet or lower legs only at a late stage. For wound treatment, you should ask your family doctor to refer you to a wound specialist.
Documentation: you can obtain a diabetes journal and your diabetes passport from the Swiss Diabetes Society or during your diabetes counselling. Use these to record blood sugar levels, medication and any exceptional everyday experiences.
Pre-existing cardiovascular diseases: High blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels should be kept within the normal range under medical supervision.
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Regardless of the treatment chosen, the key to successfully stabilising diabetes is understanding the condition well and knowing what you can do to protect your health.
Your own behaviour strongly influences the course of this chronic disease. If your medication is well adjusted, possible long-term effects on the eyes, kidneys and blood vessels will be reduced to a considerable extent.
Aftercare consists mainly in the aforementioned precautionary and preventive measures so that the disease remains stable and there is a low risk of long-term consequences.
The support of your doctor is also important, as is the advice of other specialists, such as the diabetes specialist, nutrition specialist, or wound specialist. This way, your medication can be adjusted in time, and negative consequences of the disease can be detected early and treated.
Check the skin on your feet and legs every day. At an advanced stage, the risk of wound infection can increase, and wound healing can become difficult. It makes sense to have a medical pedicure carried out by a podiatrist.
Adhere to the medical recommendations on medication, body weight, nutrition and exercise.
Carefully enter your blood sugar and medication into your diabetes journal, along with any exceptional physical activity or incidents.
Inform persons close to you about your disease and emergency measures in case of hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. Carry an emergency kit in case of hypoglycaemia.
Living with a chronic illness requires very good self-management in order to be able to successfully master the various challenges in everyday life. concordiaCoach can support you in doing so.
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