Diabetes more than doubles your risk of heart disease and stroke. It's also the leading cause of kidney failure, non-injury-related foot and leg amputations and new cases of blindness. But being diagnosed doesn't mean you're destined for such serious health problems; in fact, a new government study reports a dramatic drop in the rate of diabetes-linked amputations in adults, and researchers attribute the improvement to better management of diabetes and risk factors. Here are strategies to help prevent or delay complications:
Commit to your care. Managing diabetes may seem overwhelming, but if you take it one day at a time and learn all you can about the condition, you'll be in better control. To keep blood sugar in check, work with your doctor to determine what, how much and when to eat; get active and maintain a healthy weight; monitor glucose levels; and take prescribed medications as directed.
Watch blood pressure and cholesterol. Blood sugar levels are important, but they're not the only numbers you need to focus on. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and, when combined with high cholesterol, can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Keep blood pressure below 130/80; for cholesterol, the goal is less than 100 for "bad" LDL, above 40 for "good" HDL.
Check your feet daily. More than half of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage, which can cause loss of sensation in the feet - that means you might not feel a blister or sore. High blood sugar also injures blood vessels; if you have poor circulation, sores can't heal and could become infected. Untreated infections may lead to amputations. Look for any cuts, injuries or redness, and tell your doctor if you have a sore or foot problem that doesn't start to heal in a few days.
Get annual eye exams. Diabetes can increase your risk of cataracts and glaucoma; it also damages blood vessels of the retina, which can lead to blindness. Regular checkups can help keep minor problems from turning major, or catch serious eye problems early so treatment is more effective.
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