Diabetes care: 

10 ways to avoid diabetes complications

You've got to take the initiative when it comes to your diabetes care. From monitoring your blood sugar to checking your feet every day, taking an active role in your diabetes care can help prevent or at least minimize diabetes complications.
Here are 10 ways to take an active role in your diabetes care and enjoy a healthier future:

1. Have a general physical each year

Beyond your regular checkups to monitor your diabetes treatment, have a physical examination once a year. Because your doctor knows you have diabetes, he or she will look for emerging problems caused by the disease, such as eye, kidney and heart disease.

2. Get a yearly eye exam

Going to an eye specialist an ophthalmologist or an optometrist annually will help detect diabetes-related vision problems and catch them early, when they're treatable. If you have poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease or elevated cholesterol, you may need to see your eye specialist more than once a year.

3. See your dentist twice a year

High blood sugar impairs your immune system, limiting your ability to fight off bacteria and viruses that cause infection. Because your mouth is loaded with bacteria, your gums provide a common site of infection.

4. Keep your vaccinations up-to-date

Staying up-to-date on vital vaccinations can help you avoid serious diabetes complications. This includes getting:
An annual flu shot. No matter what your age, if you have diabetes you're more likely to get the flu (influenza) than are people who don't have diabetes. Because you have diabetes, you're also more likely to develop serious complications from flu, including diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar syndrome.
Pneumonia vaccine. Most doctors recommend that people with diabetes receive a one-time pneumonia vaccination. If you have complications from your diabetes, such as kidney or heart disease, or you're 65 years of age or older, you may need a five-year booster shot.
Other vaccinations. Stay up-to-date with your tetanus shot and its 10-year boosters. Ask your doctor about getting vaccinated against hepatitis B if you haven't already received the vaccine.

5. Take care of your feet

Diabetes is potentially dangerous to your feet in two ways:
Diabetes can damage the network of nerves in your feet (neuropathy), reducing the sensation of pain. This means you can develop a sore or blister without realizing it.
Diabetes can narrow or block off your arteries (atherosclerosis), reducing blood flow to your feet. With less blood to nourish the tissues in your feet, it's harder for sores to heal. An unnoticed cut or sore hidden beneath your shoes and socks can quickly develop into a larger problem.

6. Don't smoke

People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to die of heart disease, stroke and other diseases than are nonsmokers with diabetes. This is because:
Smoking narrows your arteries, reducing blood flow to your legs. Narrowed arteries increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, and also make it more difficult for wounds to heal.
Smoking increases your risk of nerve damage and kidney disease.
Smoking further impairs your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and respiratory infections.

7. Take a daily aspirin

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that most people with diabetes take an aspirin every day because daily aspirin use can reduce your risk of heart attack. The recommended dose is anywhere from 81 milligrams (mg) a day, the amount found in a baby aspirin, to 325 mg a day, the amount found in an adult tablet. Taking more than this doesn't increase its benefits. Talk with your doctor to make sure aspirin is safe for you and, if it is, to find out which strength aspirin you should take.

8. Monitor your blood pressure

Like diabetes, high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels. When these two conditions team up, they can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other life-threatening conditions.
For adults with or without diabetes, the healthiest blood pressure is below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If you have high blood pressure and diabetes, the ADA recommends that you get treatment aimed at keeping your blood pressure no higher than 130/80 mm Hg. The same healthy habits that can improve blood sugar a balanced diet and regular exercise can also help reduce blood pressure. Reducing salt (sodium) in your diet and controlling how much alcohol you consume are important as well.

9. Monitor your blood sugar

Managing your blood sugar is the most important thing you can do to feel your best and prevent long-term complications of diabetes. By monitoring your blood sugar and keeping it within your target range, you'll reduce such risks as eye, kidney, blood vessel and nerve damage.

10. Manage your stress

Stress can increase your body's production of those hormones that block the effect of insulin, causing your blood sugar to rise. If you're under a lot of stress, you'll have a hard time taking care of yourself and managing your diabetes. You may not take the time to eat right, monitor your blood sugar, exercise or take your medication as prescribed. And prolonged stress can lead to depression.

It all adds up

It's true that members of your diabetes care team doctor, diabetes nurse educator and dietitian, for example will encourage and help you to live healthy with diabetes. But make sure you take good care of yourself to prevent and minimize diabetes complications. After all, no one has a greater stake in your health than you.


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