By 2030, 1 in 10 Belgians will be diabetic. That’s professor Dimitri Aerden’s prediction, who’s expecting a “diabetic tsunami”. But can diabetes be prevented?
Professor Aerden fails to understand the lack of focus that sometimes prevails on a disease that nevertheless has very serious consequences. So says the vascular surgeon who specialises in treating diabetics with wounds to their feet.
Over time diabetics can lose sensation in their lower limbs. And as such incur wounds more easily. If their diabetes isn’t properly controlled, moreover, their blood vessels clog up. Consequently, the wounds don’t get enough blood, do not then heal and could even become infected. Sometimes the only option is to amputate. “Each and every time that’s a traumatic experience. Primarily for the patient, of course, but also for the surgeon. You’re saving a life, but still… At the start of my career I had nightmares for months on end. I would wake with fright, thinking I myself was missing toes or a leg. To then check under the sheet and reassure myself that wasn’t the case.”
What’s striking is that according to the professor the majority of the amputations he undertakes are actually avoidable. “They could have been prevented if the patients had been referred to a specialist on time”, he states in the first episode of the television programme Topdokters. That applies to many diabetes-related complications: often they are avoidable. In any case, if treatment in preceding years proceeded optimally.
How is it preventable?
“Diabetes cannot always be prevented”, the Diabetes Fund informs us. “Diabetes type 1 can never be prevented. The most common form of diabetes – type 2 – is preventable though by being body and food aware. A few tips:
- Eat a varied diet, in moderation and try to limit your sweet intake. Eat a lot of vegetables and wholegrain products and as little salt as possible. When frying use unsaturated fats.
- Everyone knows smoking is unhealthy and that stopping isn’t easy. But smoking increases the likelihood of diabetes considerably: by 30-40%
- Maintaining a healthy weight is vital too. With obesity the body struggles to keep blood sugar levels in balance. It will respond less well to insulin which can result in diabetes. The good news is that the likelihood of diabetes immediately lessens if you lose weight. Even by just a couple of kilos.