Improper management of diabetes can lead to long-term health problems.
Heart and blood vessel problems
Over time, fat can build up on the walls of your blood vessels. It’s hard for blood to flow through the clogged vessels. When blood can’t get to the heart, it can cause a heart attack. When blood can’t get to the brain, it can cause a stroke. There are other things that increase your risk of heart disease and strokes such as:
- Too much weight around your waist (waist size 40 inches or more in men and 35 inches or more in women)
- Abnormal blood fat and cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
To prevent those problems:
- Manage your blood sugar levels
- Follow your meal and physical activity plans
- If you smoke, try very hard to stop, or seek help from your diabetes care team. You can also visit http://www.smokefree.com for help in quitting
- Limit salt and alcohol intake
- Know your cholesterol and blood fat (triglyceride) levels and manage them
- Check your blood pressure and manage it
Cholesterol and Blood Fats
A blood test will tell you how much of various kinds of fats and cholesterol you have in your blood. Try to reach the goals that you and your diabetes care team have set. Meeting your goals will help protect your heart and blood vessels from damage.
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the insides of your blood vessels as it moves through your body. You should have your blood pressure checked at every visit and ask what it is. Your diabetes care team will give you two numbers. For example, if your blood pressure is 130/88 mm Hg, your team will say that your pressure is “one thirty over eighty.”
The first number is your systolic blood pressure. That’s the pressure as your heart beats to pump blood. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. That’s the pressure when the heart rests between beats.
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood. High blood pressure can:
- Strain the heart
- Damage blood vessels
- Increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, eye problems, and kidney problems
Ask your diabetes care team about your blood pressure goal. The goal for most people with diabetes is less than 130/80 mm Hg. If you are not at your blood pressure and blood fat and cholesterol goals, you and your diabetes care team can talk about what steps you can take to reach them.
High blood sugar can damage the tiny vessels that supply blood to your eyes. This can cause a number of eye problems. Over time, these problems can lead to blindness. There are some ways to protect your eyes:
- Manage your blood sugar and blood pressure
- Get a dilated eye exam by an eye care specialist every year
- Call your diabetes care team right away if you notice any sudden change in your sight, such as blurry vision or little specks floating before your eyes
Your kidneys filter waste products out of your blood. Over time, hyperglycemia damages the small blood vessels of the kidneys. It also forces the kidneys to filter too much blood. The extra work is hard on the kidneys. After many years, they can fail. Taking good care of yourself can help to prevent this damage. Taking good care of yourself can help to prevent this damage. Here’s what you can do:
- Have a urine test for protein every year. This test is called a microalbumin test. It can help find kidney damage in its early stages before it gets worse.
- Have a blood test for serum creatinine at least once a year. This test can also show kidney damage in its early stages.
- Keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.
- Manage your blood pressure. HIgh blood pressure makes the kidneys work extra hard.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking adds more damage to the small blood vessels.
High blood sugar can damage nerves in the body. Some of the symptoms are:
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in the toes, feet, legs, hands, arms, and fingers
- Nausea, vomiting, or indigestion
- Dizziness or faintness
- Problems with urination
Here’s what you can do to help reduce your risk of nerve damage:
- Manage your blood sugar levels
- Limit how much alcohol you drink
Teeth and Gums:
Diabetes can increase the amount of sugar in your saliva. Over time, this can cause tooth decay and gum infections. Here’s how to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
- Manage your blood sugar. See your dentist at least every 6 months for a checkup and cleaning. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
- Call your dentist if you have red, bleeding, or tender gums for more than a few days. These problems may be an early sign of gum disease.
- Floss your teeth after every meal. Then brush your teeth for 3 minutes.
Diabetes can harm your skin in many ways. High blood sugar causes your body to lose fluid. That can make your skin dry. Dry skin can crack easily. Germs can get in and cause infections. High blood sugar feeds the germs, which can make infections worse. Hyperglycemia causes you to sweat less. Decreased sweating can cause dry skin. Here’s what you can do to take care of your skin:
- Bathe or shower each day using a mild soap. Rinse very well and pat yourself dry.
- After washing, use a lotion or cream to keep your skin moist.
- Check your skin after washing. Look for dry, red, or sore spots that might lead to an infection.
- Tell your diabetes care team about any skin problems.
Diabetes can hurt your feet in two ways:
- High blood sugar damages your nerves, including those in your feet. With damaged nerves, you might not feel pain, heat, or cold. A sore or cut may get worse and become infected without your feeling it.
- Diabetes reduces blood flow to your feet. When your feet don’t get enough blood, infections may not heal.
Protect your feet by taking extra care of them:
- Have a comprehensive foot exam every year
- Wash your feet in warm water every day and dry them well
- Never go barefoot
- Wear shoes and socks that fit well
- Inspect your feet every day for cuts, bruises, blisters, or swelling
- Ask your diabetes care team how you should care for your toenails
- Call your diabetes care team if you injure your feet in any way
- Make sure your diabetes care team checks your feet at every visit
Some people with diabete experience sexual problems. It is difficult to talk about sex, but your diabetes care team can help you. You may want to ask for a few minutes to talk about it at the beginning or end of your next appointment. Setting the time aside will ensure that it gets the attention it deserves. And there is no need to feel embarrassed. You can be sure that your diabetes care team has dealt with the issue before. Keeping your nerves and blood vessels healthy can help to reduce sexual problems. You can help keep your nerves and blood vessels healthy by managing your ABCs—that is, your:
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
Diabetes problems don’t have to happen. You can work to avoid them. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk. But the most important is to manage your blood sugar. That’s the best way to live an active, full life with diabetes. You can do it! There’s no can’t, CAN!