Keeping blood sugar within your target range for diabetes can sometimes be a struggle. The longer blood sugar is unchecked and uncontrolled, the greater chance of developing serious health complications affecting your entire body.
But by taking control and practicing what you’ve learned from your diabetes medical healthcare team, you can fend off diabetes-related medical issues putting your health at risk. Staying as healthy as possible begins with understanding how uncontrolled blood sugars can cause complications but more importantly, what you can do about it. By taking control putting you in charge and not letting diabetes be in charge of you, is how to take back your health.
Here’s a look at how to get head to toe healthy:
Complications from untreated high blood sugar: Consistently high blood sugar does serious damage to the vulnerable small blood vessels leading to the brain increasing the risk of stroke. Poorly managed blood sugar control also leads to inflammation disrupting communications pathways within the brain. As a result, amyloid plaque, characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, can develop.
How to protect yourself: Regular blood pressure and lipid level assessments are necessary. Work with your doctor to achieve your goal for regulating blood pressure and your cholesterol profile. If you smoke, quit. Work with a registered dietitian on learning better eating habits to manage blood sugar levels and be faithful about performing blood glucose checks each day.
Warning symptoms to report: Any unexplained headache, numbness or weakness on one side of the body requires a call to 911. Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or vision problems are warning signs of a possible stroke. The sooner you are seen by a doctor, the greater chance for a full recovery.
Complications from untreated high blood sugar: Consistently elevated blood sugar can cause blood vessels in the eyes to swell and leak. If blood sugars are not controlled, this can result in diabetic retinopathy putting your vision at risk.
How to protect yourself: See an ophthalmologist annually for a retinal exam with retinal dilation.
Warning signs to report: Report any changes in vision such as specks, shapes floating in your field of vision, sudden vision loss, blurred vision, eye pain, and redness.
Complications from untreated high blood sugar: Anyone with diabetes has an increased risk for heart disease due to high blood sugar damaging blood vessels and nerves controlling the heart. Just having diabetes increases risk of other chronic heart-related conditions such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides and plaque buildup on damaged artery walls.
How to protect yourself: Regularly review with your doctor your goals for blood pressure and cholesterol profile. If you smoke, quit and learn to manage blood sugar with healthy eating, exercise, and reducing stress.
Warning signs to report: Call 911 if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness, weakness or coldness in the arms or legs, extreme fatigue, or a fast heart rate.
Complications from untreated high blood sugar: High levels of blood sugar from diabetes can damage your kidneys. Uncontrolled sugar makes it harder for kidneys to filter waste and fluids from the blood. Over time, the kidneys can leak a small amount of protein into urine which is called microalbuminuria which might lead to kidney failure.
How to protect yourself: Your doctor should perform a yearly urine test checking for protein and other blood tests to monitor kidney function. If you already have chronic kidney disease, work with a nephrologist, a type of kidney doctor and a dietitian to learn how to follow a renal diabetic diet, ways to control high blood pressure, and avoiding any medication damaging to the kidneys.
Warning signs to report: Call your doctor if you have abdominal swelling, swollen ankles, or high blood pressure.
Complications from untreated high blood sugar: Long-term high blood sugar levels along with high levels of fats, such as triglycerides, can cause damage to your nerves known as diabetic neuropathy. Nerves throughout your entire body can be affected but nerves leading to the feet are most commonly affected leading to numbness, ulcers, and infection.
How to protect yourself: Regularly checking blood sugar levels and reporting any symptoms of diabetic neuropathy to your doctor is a must. Early treatment can prevent additional problems in the future. Check your feet daily, using a mirror to see the bottoms of your feet looking for sores, cuts, blisters, breaks in the skin, red areas, swelling, ingrown toenails, and calluses. Protect your feet keeping them dry and wearing shoes that fit well. If you have foot problems, get shoes specifically for people with diabetes.
Warning signs to report: Tell your doctor if you have any slow-healing foot sores, leg pain or foot infections.