8 things every person with diabetes must do to minimize complications

A diagnosis of diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, must be taken seriously.  Approximately 29.1 million people have diabetes and it is now the third leading cause of death in the United States.  Diabetes is a chronic progressive illness primarily due to the many complications that can arise over the course of time.  The complications can range from cardiovascular disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney damage (nephropathy), eye damage (retinopathy), gastroparesis, peripheral artery disease and complications related to the skin

Anyone who is diagnosed with diabetes should know that there are many steps they can take to avoid these complications.  By following their diabetes treatment plan their efforts will be worthwhile.  When a person has the attitude that they are in control of their diabetes and not the other way around and by making the commitment to manage their condition, they can reduce their risk of serious - even life-threatening – complications.

Here are 8 things each person with diabetes can do to take an active role in their diabetes care and enjoy an active, healthier future:

1. Know your blood sugar numbers and do regular self-monitoring of blood sugars

A blood test conducted at a doctor’s office referred to as the Hemoglobin A1C will tell someone with diabetes how their blood sugar has been, on average, over the previous three months.  Most guidelines prefer that this number is kept below at least a 7.0.  Also, daily or several times weekly self-monitoringof blood glucose using a blood glucose meter is another way to keep track of how blood sugar numbers.  It is very important that the fasting blood sugar number be kept between at least 80 but no more than 130 mg/dl and that blood sugar numbers two hours after a meal should be below 180 mg/dl.

2. Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control

Having a diagnosis of diabetes increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.  High blood pressure can damage blood vessels.  High cholesterol also does damage leading to plaque formation within the vessels.  When someone with diabetes has both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, it increases the likelihood of cardiovascular issues.

3. Schedule regular physicals and eye exams

Each year, those with diabetes should be seen by their doctors at least two to three times in addition to their yearly physical.  During the physical, a doctor should ask about eating habits and activity level and look for any diabetes-related complications including signs of kidney damage, nerve damage, andheart disease. 

A yearly routine eye exam is also advised whether a person wears glasses or not.  The eye care specialist will check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.

4. Be up-to-date on vaccines

Those with diabetes and are experiencing high blood sugars are more likely to have a compromised immune system.  This makes having up-to-date vaccines more important than ever.  Every person with diabetes should ask their doctor about the following vaccines:

·Flu vaccine – recommendedyearly

·Pneumonia vaccine

·Hepatitis B vaccine – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend this vaccine for adults with diabetes who haven’t previously received the vaccine and are younger than 60.  If a person is 60 or older and has never received the hepatitis B vaccine, they should talk to their doctor on their opinion.

·Other vaccines such as the shingles vaccine and tetanus shot.

5. Have regular dental visits

Taking good care of teeth is vital for anyone with diabetes.  Having this disease puts a person at a higher risk of gum infections or periodontal disease.  Every day, brush and floss teeth twice and schedule regular dental exams at least twice a year.  If gums bleed, look red or swollen, call the dentist.

6. Inspect feet everyday

High blood sugar can reduce blood flow and damage the nerves in the feet.  Left untreated, cuts and blisters can lead to serious infections.  Diabetes can lead to pain, tingling or loss of sensation in your feet. 

To prevent foot problems, each day inspect the entire foot including looking between the toes and at the bottoms of feet.  Wash feet daily in lukewarm water and dry feet gently, especially between the toes.  Moisturize feet and ankles with lotion but avoid putting lotion between toes as the extra moisture can lead to infection.  Check feet daily for blisters, calluses, sores, redness or swelling.  If there is a sore or other foot problem that doesn’t clear up within a few days, consult a doctor.

7. Consume alcohol responsibly

Alcohol can cause high or low blood sugars depending on how much is consumed and a person has eaten food or not.  Drink only in moderation and never drink on an empty stomach. 

8. Deal with stress effectively

When stressed out, this can cause a rise in blood sugar numbers and can lead to a person neglecting their usual diabetes care routine.  Hormones produced by the body in response to prolonged stress may prevent insulin from working properly.  Practice relaxation techniques, prioritize tasks and get adequate rest.