Am I likely to develop diabetes?

When there is a family history of diabetes, there is a greater risk of subsequent generations developing diabetes. However, lifestyle also affects whether you develop diabetes. Being overweight and not doing enough exercise are both significant risk factors. Diet is also important: the less sugar and fat you eat, the less likely you are to develop diabetes. It is also advisable to keep your blood pressure low.

13.02.2017 Lara Brunner 3 minutes

The risk of diabetes should not be underestimated. Around 320,000 people in Switzerland are living with diabetes. If you think that you are at high risk for diabetes, we recommend that you undergo tests to be certain.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder caused by high blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels are regulated by the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. In healthy individuals, the pancreas always produces just enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels adequately.

An acute risk for diabetes exists if there is a deficiency of insulin or if the body is unable to process the insulin produced. Diabetes can have serious complications. Left untreated, it can lead to, for example, eye disorders, vascular disorders with reduced blood supply to the limbs, kidney damage or an increased risk of stroke or heart attack.

A deficiency of insulin is referred to as type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes. This form of diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body's own immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. As a consequence, those affected have to inject insulin throughout their life. Type 1 diabetes accounts for around 10% of diabetes cases. It usually develops before the age of 40; often it is diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. Type 1 diabetes is the most common form in people under 25.

Around 90% of diabetics suffer from type 2, which has developed into a widespread disease. Around a third of them are unaware that they have diabetes and consequently do nothing to treat it. In fact, it takes seven years on average before the disease is actually diagnosed. Thus, a lot of valuable time is often lost that could be used to learn how to cope with the condition in everyday life and to adjust medication to the individual.

Are you at particularly high risk for diabetes?

The risk of developing diabetes is higher if there is a history of diabetes in the family. In addition, there are a number of other indicators. The group at increased risk for type 2 diabetes includes people who have a combination of various factors. For example:

  • Over 45 years of age
  • Overweight (BMI between 25 and 30)
  • Waist circumference of more than 80 cm in women or 94 cm in men (measured above the navel)
  • Insufficient exercise, i.e. less than 30 minutes of exercise with increased breathing rate per day

Why is the risk of diabetes increasing in our society?

One of the main causes of the sharp increase in the risk of diabetes is poor dietary practices. People are eating more and more processed food and are often not even aware of what is in the food they eat. Processed foods almost always contain excessive amounts of sugar and fat.

A second reason for the increase in the risk of diabetes is a lack of exercise. People used to walk more and do more physical work out of necessity. Today, technological progress means that we don't have to exercise as much in our everyday lives.

How can you reduce the risk or even prevent diabetes?

We recommend that you follow a healthy balanced diet. Keep your body weight under control. Get plenty of exercise and also allow yourself moments of relaxation.

Assessing your risk of diabetes

The Swiss Diabetes Association provides a simple risk test for assessing your susceptibility to diabetes. It takes just two to three minutes to answer the questions. You should repeat the test every three to five years.

Risk test

Further information

Read more

Do I have diabetes? Spot the symptoms
Diabetes does not appear overnight. Diabetes is often identified through gradual physical changes.
February 13, 2017 2 minutes

Type 1 diabetes: a diagnosis with consequences
Type 1 diabetes will have a significant impact on your lifestyle. Regular insulin injections are inevitable.
February 13, 2017 3 minutes

Type 2 diabetes is surprisingly common
Many people live with type 2 diabetes. You can live a normal life without any discomfort if you manage things right.
February 13, 2017 3 minutes


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