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Tips to Fend Off Serious Complications

Living well with diabetes means taking care of yourself even when you don’t have any noticeable symptoms of the disease. If you have had diabetes for a while, you know this can be a challenge. Some days it’s easy to eat healthy and exercise; other days it can be difficult to fit in a walk or sit down for a proper meal.

Feeling guilty about having diabetes may even cause you to go off track. These are common feelings. But remember, it’s not your fault that you have diabetes, and you have the power to live a life free of health complications. Here are reasons to stay motivated:

  1. Heart Disease Did you know that stroke and heart attack are the leading causes of death for people with diabetes? A number of conditions contribute to heart disease, including obesity, an inactive lifestyle, high blood pressure and problems such as high cholesterol. You can reduce your risk by eating lean meats, low-fat dairy foods, healthy fats (such as olive oil) and 20 grams or more of fiber per day. (FYI: Foods high in fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas and strawberries.) Also, eat foods low in sodium and limit alcoholic drinks to one a day for women and two for men. Set a goal to exercise 150 minutes a week.
  2. Blindness High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your eyes. Over time, it can lead to a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which may cause blindness. High blood pressure, a condition that is common in diabetes, can damage blood vessels in the eyes. The best way to avoid eye problems is by controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure, and by keeping your A1c (a blood test that shows your average blood sugar level for the previous two to three months) below 7%. Report any changes, such as blurred vision, to your physician, and plan to visit an eye specialist each year.
  3. Nerve Damage Unchecked blood sugar levels can cause a painful condition called diabetic neuropathy, a form of nerve damage. Symptoms of nerve damage include pain and numbness in the legs and feet, which can result in ulcers, infections and even amputation. You can prevent or slow down the progression of neuropathy by maintaining an A1c below 7% and by keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
  4. Kidney Disease Between 20% and 40% of people with diabetes will develop kidney failure. The kidneys’ main job is to remove waste products and fluids from the blood. When your blood sugar is out of control, the kidneys can fail and are unable to act as a filtering system. Once this happens, dialysis treatments become necessary. Dialysis is a process in which your blood is allowed to flow through a special filter before it’s returned to your body. Some people will require a kidney transplant. Avoid kidney disease by improving control of your blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Published March 2012

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