Type 2 diabetes can be easy to ignore, especially in the early stages when you’re feeling fine. Diabetes affects many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. These long-term complications from type 2 diabetes usually develop gradually, and can eventually become disabling or life-threatening. Therefore, controlling your blood sugar is important to help prevent these problems.
Below are some of the potential complications of diabetes:
•Heart and blood vessel damage: Diabetes increases the risks of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain, heart attack, stroke, narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, the risk of stroke is two to four times higher for people with diabetes, and the death rate from heart disease is two to four times higher for people with diabetes than for people without it.
•Nerve damage (neuropathy): Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood capillaries that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads inward toward the center of the body. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Also, damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
•Kidney damage (nephropathy): The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure and/or irreversible kidney disease, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.
•Eye damage: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
•Foot damage: Nerve damage in the feet and/or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Cuts, sores, and blisters can become serious and cause infections. Severe damage might require toe, foot or even leg amputation.
•Skin and mouth conditions: Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.
•Osteoporosis: Diabetes may lead to lower than normal bone mineral density, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
•Alzheimer’s disease: Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. It appears the worse your blood sugar control, the greater the risk of Alzheimer’s.
•Hearing problems. Diabetes can also lead to hearing impairment.
In addition to medications such as oral agents and insulin prescribed by your doctor, there are two things you can do to help control your diabetes: diet and exercise.
Diet: Center your diet on high-fiber, low-fat foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Minimize the amount of animal products, refined carbohydrates and sweets you consume. A registered dietitian can help you with a meal plan that fits your health goals, food preferences and lifestyle. Consistency is important. To keep your blood sugar from bouncing around, try to eat the same amount of food with the same proportion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats at the same time every day.
Exercise: Everyone needs regular aerobic exercise. Make physical activity part of your daily routine. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. Stretching and strength training are also important, as is consistency. A certified Personal Trainer can help you with your fitness goals and exercise routines. Talk to your doctor first and start slowly!
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.
By: Janet Hunt