Chances are that you know someone with diabetes who has developed a long term complication of the disease, like heart disease, stroke, impaired vision or blindness, kidney failure, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, foot problems, skin infections, and/or sexual problems.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes yourself, you may feel that you will also develop one or more of these complications. What you may not know is that by keeping a healthy lifestyle, taking preventive actions, creating a plan with your doctor, and building diabetes self-management skills, you will have the power to prevent, or greatly reduce your risk of complications.
What can you do to reduce your risks?
- Schedule regular checkups with your doctor
- Follow a healthy eating plan
- Move more and sit less
- Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor
- Monitor your blood sugars, as instructed
- Stop smoking or vaping
- Brush and floss your teeth daily
- Get all recommended immunizations (for example, annual flu shot, Covid-19 vaccination, pneumonia, hepatitis B, and tetanus/diphtheria vaccines)
- Check your feet daily, looking for abnormal redness, sores, and open wounds
- Be open with your doctor about feelings of anxiety and/or depression
Schedule the following health checks and understand your “numbers”:
- A1C (a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level) - every 3 to 6 months
- Blood Pressure- every visit
- Lipids (blood fats)- at least once a year
- HDL (good cholesterol)
- LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Triglycerides (blood fats)
- Eye checkup- every year
- Kidney function testing- every year
- Dental checkup- at least every year
- Foot checkup (blood supply and nerve function) - at least every year.
Working with a diabetes educator is a great way to:
- learn about diabetes and standards of care
- learn about complications and how to prevent them
- plan your treatment goals
- understand your “numbers”
- learn how to make smart food choices
- learn how to exercise safely
- learn how to monitor your blood sugars (using new technology) and how to respond to your blood sugar trends, including how to manage high and low blood sugars
- learn how your medications work
- learn how to manage stress
- learn how to manage diabetes when you are sick or traveling, and when to contact your healthcare provider.
Ask to meet with a diabetes care educator:
- When you are first diagnosed with diabetes
- At least once a year to assess your education, nutrition, and emotional needs
- When you have complicating factors (such as financial or emotional stress, new health conditions, or new or progressive physical limitations), and
- When transitions in life and care occur (such as a new medical care team, living situation, or change in healthcare coverage that could affect treatment)
Knowledge, self-management skills, and behavior changes are the best tools to reduce your risk of developing short and long term complications of diabetes.
For more resources about diabetes prevention and management, visit our Diabetes Resources page