During the past two decades, the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled. Over 37 million Americans (about 11%) live with diabetes, and 96 million Americans aged 18 and older (nearly 40%) have prediabetes, the precursor condition to full-blown diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable with healthy lifestyle habits, accounts for up to 95% of all diabetes cases. Poorly managed diabetes causes chronically high blood sugar (glucose) levels that can have various negative health effects. Luckily, certain lifestyle changes can help reverse prediabetes and prevent diabetes complications.
Dr. Nidal Hasan is a board-certified endocrinologist and internist who specializes in diabetes management at Optimum Endocrine Care in Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois, and Munster, Indiana. He can help you avoid or delay the onset of common diabetes complications. Here’s what you should know.
Common diabetes complications
Living with diabetes increases your risk of developing a range of health complications. If you have poorly managed diabetes, chronically elevated blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels, leading to:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Heart attack and stroke events
- Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Loss of sensation in the lower extremities
- Diabetic foot ulcers and increased risk of infection
- Diabetic eye disease and permanent vision loss
- Sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence
- Diabetic kidney disease and renal failure
- Advanced gum disease and tooth decay
In the U.S. and most other high-income nations, diabetes is a leading cause of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and lower limb amputation.
Diabetes complication prevention
As serious as diabetes and diabetic complications are, learning how to manage your condition can keep you healthy and delay or prevent the development of additional problems. We advise all diabetes patients to:
1. Prioritize diabetes management
First and foremost, commit to managing your diabetes and keeping blood sugar levels under control. Most diabetes complications are the result of disease mismanagement. Proper diabetes care includes:
- Establishing healthy eating patterns
- Making exercise part of your daily routine
- Monitoring your blood glucose levels as directed
- Taking your diabetes medications as directed
- Asking your doctor for help when you need it
Diabetes management also includes learning all you can about the condition and establishing a diabetes care team to support you every step of the way. A well-rounded care team may include your primary care provider, diabetic specialists like Dr. Hasan, a dietician, and an optometrist and podiatrist who specialize in diabetes.
2. Control your cardio numbers
High blood pressure (hypertension) and unhealthy blood lipid levels (high “bad” LDL, high triglycerides, and low “good” HDL cholesterol levels) are already detrimental to your health. But when these are uncontrolled in the presence of diabetes, the effects can be disastrous.
On its own, diabetes can take a toll on your blood vessels, causing irreversible damage that restricts your circulation and elevates your heart disease risk. High cholesterol and high blood pressure levels are both damaging to your vascular system, but that damage tends to be much worse and occurs more rapidly when you have diabetes.
The bottom line? Keep your blood pressure and blood lipid levels under control.
3. Ditch unhealthy habits for good
You already know that smoking is bad for your health. But smoking when you have diabetes makes it much harder to control your blood glucose levels. It drastically increases your risk of:
- Heart disease and stroke
- Eye disease and blindness
- Diminished circulation
- Permanent nerve damage
- Non-healing ulcers; infection
- Lower limb amputation
- Kidney disease and dialysis
If you have diabetes and smoke, quitting offers immediate health benefits. If you need help with smoking cessation, ask Dr. Hasan for recommendations.
4. Pay close attention to your feet
Diabetes can reduce blood flow to your lower extremities and damage the nerves in your feet. Foot care should be an important part of your daily care routine, especially if you already experience pain, tingling, or loss of sensation in your feet.
Check your feet daily for cuts, calluses, blisters, and sores. Keep your skin well moisturized to prevent dryness and cracking, and take extra care when trimming your toenails. Finally, consult your podiatrist when you develop any foot injury that doesn’t heal in a few days, even if it seems minor.
5. Schedule regular physical exams
Regular medical checkups are key for maintaining the upper hand over diabetes and protecting your long-term health. This means scheduling:
- An annual physical/wellness exam
- Two to four diabetes checkups yearly
- An annual comprehensive eye exam
- Twice-yearly dental cleanings and exams
Depending on your situation, it may also include seeing your podiatrist for regular foot exams.
Get diabetes under control today
If you’re ready to improve your diabetes care and management plan, Dr. Hasan can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment at Optimum Endocrine Care today. We have offices in Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois, and Munster, Indiana.