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Preventing complications

Scientific support: Prof. Dr. Karsten Müssig

Diabetes can lead to serious complications. High blood sugar levels can, over time, damage various organs and cause stress or even mental health problems.

But the good news is: There are ways of preventing the complications of diabetes or delaying their onset. Your best bet is to act early and to get to grips with your diabetes.


The first step is to find out about the various complications, their development and prevention measures. The 2nd step is to do as much as possible to prevent potential complications: Lead a healthy lifestyle, ensure your blood glucose is in a healthy range and have regular checkups.

Where in the body can the long-term consequences of diabetes develop?

If blood glucose level is consistently over the norm in someone who has diabetes, this can affect the large and small blood vessels and thus lead to complications in various parts of the body. These complications increase the disease burden and can significantly restrict quality of life. Our infographic shows which organs are commonly affected.

Take care of yourself and your body and lead a healthy lifestyle. Be good to yourself!

Balanced diet

Make sure your diet is varied and balanced. You should make space in your diet for plenty of high fiber foods such as fruit and vegetables as well as whole grain products and pulses. You should also opt for plant-based oils.

You can find more information about diet with type 2 diabetes here.

Read here what you need to know about diet with type 1 diabetes.

Regular exercise

Make sure you get regular exercise. Incorporating regular exercise into your everyday routine is especially important. Also look for a type of sport you enjoy.

You can find more information about exercise and type 2 diabetes here.

Exercise and type 1 diabetes: Click here for all the key information

Avoid tobacco and alcohol

Tobacco consumption is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption increases the risk of fatty liver which can develop into fatty liver hepatitis and liver cirrhosis.

Keep your weight within a normal range and lose any excess weight

Try to maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, try to lose weight. If you manage to lose 5 to 10 percent of your initial weight, this can significantly improve our glucose metabolism.

Adjusting your blood glucose over the long-term reduces the risk of complications and is therefore the be-all-and-end-all of prevention. Discuss your target long-term blood sugar value (HbA1c) with your doctor. It may make sense to aim for a slightly higher value depending on previous and pre-existing conditions. You should avoid severe hyper- or hypoglycemia as far as possible.

High blood pressure and elevated blood lipids can also impair the function of the vessels. Guidelines recommend an upper blood pressure value of under 140 mmHg. You should also, however, discuss your target with your doctor.

Good to know:

Further prevention measures are essential, depending on which organ is affected. Read about it in our background articles.

Regular medical examinations

Make sure you go to all your checkups with your doctor. The most important checkups are listed in your Diabetes Health Passport (Link in German) from the German Diabetes Association where they can also be logged. People with type 2 diabetes should have these examination regularly from the time they are first diagnosed. For people with type 1 diabetes they are important from the age of 11 or 5 years after diagnosis.

Important examinations according to the Diabetes Health Passport from the German Diabetes Association:

Every 3 months:

  • Body weight and waist circumference are measured
  • Blood pressure is measured
  • Long-term blood sugar value is measured (HbA1c)
  • The frequency of severely low blood sugar levels is determined
  • Injection sites are examined
  • Smoking status is checked

Once a year:

Every 2 years:

  • Examination of the eyes

Depending on the findings, it may be advisable to carry out the examinations listed above more frequently. Also keep a regular eye on your body. Has the sensation in your feet changed? Do you maybe have a wound? Have you noticed changes at other areas, such as your eyes or teeth? Speak to your doctor about any changes you have noticed.

Detailed information on tests for the individual complications is available in the specific articles. Click here for an overview!


American Diabetes Association: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes - 2019. In: Diabetes Care, 2019, 42: S1-S193
Bundesärztekammer et al.: Nationale Versorgungsleitlinie Therapie des Typ-2-Diabetes. Langfassung. 1. Auflage. Version 4. 2013 (Gültigkeit abgelaufen, in Überprüfung)
Deutsche Diabetes Gesellschaft: S3-Leitlinie Therapie des Typ-1-Diabetes. 2. Auflage. 2018
Deutsche Diabetes Gesellschaft et al.: Gesundheits-Pass Diabetes. 2017
Landgraf, R. et al.: Therapie des Typ-2-Diabetes. In: Diabetologie, 2018, 13: S144-S165
As of: 18.12.2019