Foot ulcers, stroke, and cancer are some of the many serious complications associated with diabetes. Fortunately, these and other diabetes-related complications can often be avoided with adequate blood sugar control, exercise, a healthy diet, and other easy methods.
Diabetes is often a lifelong condition that requires careful management. If you are living with diabetes, controlling it is essential to reducing your risk for its related complications.
Long-term complications of diabetes usually come on gradually and can be life-threatening. However, many diabetes-related complications can be avoided as long as you take the correct steps to prevent them.
Here are ten things you can do to avoid complications of diabetes and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center if you need help managing your condition.
What Are Common Diabetes Complications?
Complications of diabetes occur when your blood sugar level stays high for a long period. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels throughout your body. This damage can harm many of your organs, including your heart, brain, and kidneys.
Common complications of diabetes include:
- Eye problems, also known as diabetic retinopathy.
- Foot problems, such as ulcers.
- Amputation of one or more limbs.
- Kidney problems, also known as diabetic nephropathy.
- Heart attack.
- Gum disease.
- Urinary tract infection.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Hearing impairment.
- Skin problems.
10 Ways To Avoid Diabetes Complications
Overall, the most effective way to avoid diabetes-related complications is to live a healthy lifestyle. In some instances, this may be easier said than done, especially if you have been smoking for a long time or suffer from high blood pressure. However, over time, you can gradually change your lifestyle to become healthier and reduce your risk for complications.
1. Control Your Blood Sugar Level
Keeping your blood sugar level within a healthy range can help prevent many complications. Your doctor can work with you to do this. It often involves taking your diabetes medications as directed, eating healthy foods, and staying active. Your doctor may check your A1c levels at least twice a year to make sure it’s in a healthy range.
2. Eat Healthy Foods
Foods that are high in sugar can spike your blood sugar level. They also contribute to weight gain and obesity, which are risk factors for diabetes.
Start eating healthier foods that lack sugars, high amounts of salt, and unhealthy fats. Your diet should include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts, and seeds. Your doctor can work with you to develop a healthy meal plan designed for people with diabetes. In some instances, you may be referred to a dietitian or nutritionist who can help.
3. Exercise Every Day
Exercise is a natural way to control your blood sugar level. It can also help you lose excess weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.
Be active every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Establish an exercise routine and work out at least five days a week. On days you don’t work out, do other activities. Go for a walk, park farther away from the store, or play outside with your family or pet. Gardening, doing housework, and taking the stairs instead of the escalator are other easy ways to stay active.
4. Control Your Blood Pressure
Nearly 74% of adults in the U.S. with diabetes also have high blood pressure, reports the National Library of Medicine (NLM). High blood pressure increases your risk for stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
If you have high blood pressure, take your medications to control it. Other things you can do to control your blood pressure include eating healthy foods, exercising, and managing stress. Reducing your salt intake and drinking less alcohol can also help you control your blood pressure.
5. Manage Your Cholesterol
Many people with diabetes also have high cholesterol. According to the CDC, an estimated 44% of U.S. adults with diabetes are also diagnosed with high cholesterol. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
If you have diabetes, your LDL cholesterol should stay below 100 mg/dL. Fortunately, many of the same healthy behaviors that can lower blood pressure can also lower your cholesterol. This includes exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, losing weight, and not smoking.
6. Inspect Your Feet Daily
People with diabetes are at high risk of developing ulcers on their feet, known as diabetic foot ulcers. According to the NLM, between 15% and 25% of people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer at some point during their lifetime.
Foot ulcers are common among people with diabetes on behalf of nerve damage. Nerve damage can make it difficult to feel punctures and other wounds on the feet. Additionally, damage to blood vessels can cause wounds to heal slowly. When foot wounds aren’t caught early on, they can turn into ulcers. When not treated, ulcers can lead to amputation of the foot or leg.
If you have diabetes, inspect your feet every day for signs of wounds. This includes blisters, corns, calluses, and puncture wounds. You should also trim your toenails regularly or have them trimmed by a podiatrist. Many podiatrists are trained in the prevention, management, and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.
7. Know the Signs Of Heart Disease
Heart disease is more common among people with diabetes due to potential nerve and blood vessel damage. Knowing the signs of heart disease can make you more aware of problems early on so you can see your doctor for treatment. Common signs of heart disease include chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
8. Stop Smoking
Smoking narrows your blood vessels. It also damages them further on top of the damage being caused by poorly managed blood sugar. Smoking increases your risk for a wide range of other diseases, including cancer, stroke, and kidney disease.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start doing it regardless of whether or not you have diabetes. If you currently smoke, ask your doctor about treatments that can help you quit. There are medications available to help you stop smoking. You can also use a form of nicotine replacement, such as patches or gum.
9. Get Your Eyes Checked Regularly
Diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels in your eyes, causing vision problems, including blindness. Many times, people with diabetes do not know the blood vessels in their eyes are damaged until it’s too late.
Glaucoma is a common eye condition among people with diabetes. In glaucoma, the nerve that connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged. This can lead to eye pain, blurred vision, or vision loss.
Get your eyes checked regularly by an eye doctor if you have diabetes. An eye doctor can often find signs of diabetic retinopathy early on and treat the problem to help you avoid vision loss.
The NLM recommends having your eyes checked every one to two years by an eye doctor who specializes in diabetes-related eye problems.
10. Care For Your Teeth
High blood sugar levels increase your risk for oral health problems, including tooth decay and gum disease. This is partly due to how high blood sugar can damage nerves and blood vessels in the mouth. If you have diabetes, you may have to take extra good care of your teeth to avoid oral health issues.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Floss at least once a day. On top of that, see your dentist once or twice a year for exams and professional cleaning. Contact your dentist if your gums become red, swollen, or bleed, as these are common signs of gum disease.
When To See a Doctor
Diabetes is a chronic condition that usually lasts a lifetime. Therefore, you may need to see your doctor several times a year to make sure it is being managed properly.
The CDC recommends visiting your doctor every three months if you’re having difficulty meeting your diabetes treatment goals. During these appointments, your doctor will check your weight and blood pressure. Your doctor may also examine your feet and review the dosages and types of medications you are taking.
If you’re meeting your diabetes treatment goals, you may only need to meet with your doctor once every six months. This is mainly for routine maintenance. Your doctor can confirm your A1c levels are within a normal range and discuss other things you can do to further reduce your diabetes symptoms.
Make an appointment with your doctor right away if you think you may have a complication of diabetes. Early detection and treatment are critical to making sure any complications do not become worse. See your doctor if you have a wound on your foot or if you are experiencing signs of a stroke or heart disease. If necessary, ask your doctor for referrals to a podiatrist and eye doctor, as these specialists can also help ensure you remain in good health.
Managing Diabetes With Lompoc Valley Medical Center
Lompoc Valley Medical Center is home to a large team of highly experienced board-certified doctors who can work with you to manage chronic conditions, including diabetes. If you think you may have diabetes or need diabetes treatment, contact us today at (805) 737-3300 to request an appointment. We can talk to you about your treatment options and our many other healthcare services.