You can prevent or delay complications of type 2 diabetes

People with Type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay complications of diabetes by following healthy guidelines.

Why is it so important for people with type 2 diabetes to maintain day-to-day normal blood sugar levels? As we have often been told, the complications of diabetes caused by high blood sugar levels can, over time, do permanent damage to many parts of our bodies. According to the book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, by Dr. Kate Lorig, et al, the number one complication of diabetes over time is heart disease. 

Other complications include:

  • nerve damage or neuropathy, which might mean burning, tingling, numbness or loss of feeling in our hands and feet
  • liver and kidney damage
  • vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma or even blindness
  • infections that persist
  • gum disease
  • skin and foot problems from poor wound healing
  • sexual problems for men and women – erectile dysfunction, yeast infections, vaginal dryness or loss of desire.

What are the best ways to maintain healthy blood sugar levels day-to-day? Michigan State University Extension says that the most basic ways to prevent or delay complications of diabetes are to choose elements of a healthy lifestyle:

  • Keep yourself physically active
  • Pick healthy food options in portion sizes that are right for you
  • Don’t smoke
  • Be proactive to manage your stress levels
  • Take any medications as directed by your health care provider
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels as directed by your health care provider
  • Have regular tests to determine how your health strategies are working and to modify strategies, in consultation with your health care provider, if tests show you need to make changes

What are the tests and procedures that people with diabetes need to determine whether their health strategies are working? If you are not familiar with tests that all people with diabetes need on a regular basis, the book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions explains:

  • Blood pressure: should be measured at every doctor visit
  • Feet: should be checked for unhealed sores at every visit, and have a complete foot exam at least once a year
  • A1c: should be tested at least twice a year, A1c is a blood test to determine what your average blood glucose level was for the past 2-3 months. Most people should aim for an A1c below 7, or as recommended by your healthcare team
  • Kidney function: should be tested once a year by means of a blood or urine test or both
  • Blood lipids (fats): total cholesterol; LDL, low-density lipoprotein; HDL, high-density lipoprotein; and triglycerides should be tested at least once a yea
  • Eyes: should be tested once a year with a dilated eye exam, in which your eye care professional uses eye drops to dilate the pupils
  • Teeth and gums: should be checked by a dentist twice a year
  • Pneumonia shot: People with diabetes should receive a shot no matter what age. Even if you have had one shot and are over 65, ask your doctor about having another shot
  • Flu shot: recommended once a year for people with diabetes

As with all chronic diseases, active managing of Type 2 diabetes is an ongoing necessity to prevent or delay complications of the disease. Ensuring that your blood sugar levels remain within a healthy range is crucial.

Besides the medication management, the other requirements to manage diabetes are very similar to living a healthy lifestyle under all conditions: be physically active, choose a healthy eating plan, manage stress levels, don’t smoke and visit your health care provider regularly. For more information about managing Type 2 diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Education Program website. To find disease prevention programs available in your area please visit the MSU Extension website.

To learn more about diabetes self-care strategies, participate in a Michigan State University Extension led diabetes management series.

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