Learn more about the health conditions associated with diabetes and what you can do to reduce your risk.
Do you know that diabetes can lead to additional health conditions and issues, including heart disease and stroke? If you’re among the more than 100 million U.S. adults who have diabetes or prediabetes, it’s important to recognize the risk factors related to the condition.
However, many of these side-effects, such as kidney and eye damage, are reversible if caught at an early stage, says Sadie Wangler, stroke program manager at Renown.
“Know your body, if you feel changes occurring, talk with your doctor so they can help you in the best way they can,” Wangler says.
Health Risks Associated With Diabetes
Stroke: A stroke occurs when one or more of the blood vessels to the brain become blocked or burst. As a result, part of your brain does not get the oxygenated blood it needs.
Suggestions to lower your risk: Eat a healthy diet of vegetables and fruits, avoiding excess fat, sugary drinks and processed food. Also schedule time to exercise three to five days a week. Exercise is proven not only to lower your blood pressure and weight, but it also helps regulate your blood sugar, heart, blood flow and mood. Be sure to take any prescribed medication to control your blood pressure if your doctor recommends it. Quit smoking too, as smoking dramatically increases your risk for stroke.
“Small changes can have a huge impact on your body, so feel proud of the small steps and keep making improvements to better your life,” Wangler adds.
Eye damage: High blood pressure and diabetes can cause your blood vessels can get leaky, causing retinal bleeding, scarring and vision loss.
Suggestions to lower your risk: Get regular eye exams every two years at minimum, or every year if your eye doctor has identified damage from diabetes. Controlling your blood pressure, blood sugar and your cholesterol will also improve your eye health.
Kidney disease: High blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure can damage the kidneys, reducing the efficient filtering of waste from you bloodstream and resulting in kidney failure. Diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease.
Suggestions to lower your risk: Ask your doctor for yearly blood and urine tests to check your kidney function.
Healthy numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol and kidney function vary by person. Be sure to talk with your doctor about what numbers are a healthy goal for you.
Do You Have Diabetes?
Unsure if you have diabetes? The American Diabetes Association consider these signs of diabetes:
- Wounds healing slowly
- Frequent urination
- Frequent thirst
- Blurred vision
- Chronic tingling or numbness in your feet or hands
The non-modifiable (uncontrollable) risk factors of diabetes include:
Family history: If one of your parents or siblings is diagnosed with diabetes, you are at greater risk.
Age: Your risk for diabetes increases with age.
Ethnicity: Hispanics, African-Americans, American-Indians and Asian-Americans are at higher risk of a diabetes diagnosis.
Most early warning signs of diabetes are ignored. One in three American adults have pre-diabetes and don’t even know it. (Take the pre-diabetes risk test.) The only way to be sure you do not have diabetes is by a fasting blood glucose test (A1C) ordered by your primary care provider.
Above all, try to keep a diabetes diagnosis in perspective. There are many tools and resources available to help you manage your diabetes and live a long, healthy life.