MD - Diabetology, MBBS
Diabetes is growing to be the epidemic of modern days. The challenge here is it is not just about managing your sugar levels, but the whole lot of symptoms that diabetes brings with it. From bones to teeth to kidneys to wounds, diabetes affects all body systems. It is therefore very essential to watch out for symptoms of diabetes and curb it in its early stages. This will help control diabetes significantly along with its effects on the whole body.
Long-term complications of diabetes develop gradually. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar the higher the risk of complications. Eventually, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening. Possible complications include:
Cardiovascular disease. Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis). If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have heart disease or stroke.
Nerve damage. Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in your legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain. Left untreated, you could lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs.
Kidney damage. The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters (glomeruli) that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Eye damage. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness.
Foot damage. Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. These infections may ultimately require toe, foot or leg amputation.
Skin conditions. Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.
Hearing impairment. Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.
Alzheimer's disease. Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
The following are some of the basic must do's if you have diabetes. These can go a long way in preventing adverse diabetic side effects.
Diet: Whether diabetic or not, it is always important to watch your diet. You are what you eat. Eat what your body needs, reduce refined foods, processed foods and increase the amount of whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Eating small frequent meals goes a long way in managing sugar levels than binging at one meal and starving the rest of the day. Reduce intake of saturated fats; include more lean meats. Choose grilling and steaming over frying and roasting. Diet is very important in diabetes. Recommended foods - Healthy carbohydrates, Fiber-rich foods, Heart-healthy fish and Good fats. Foods to avoid - Saturated fats, Trans fats, Cholesterol and Sodium
Exercise: Every week, make sure about 2 hours is dedicated to physical activity. This could include any exercise of your choice, brisk walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics, hiking, jogging, skipping, gymnastics, or playing games like football or basketball. While in most cases, the person can do these on their own, in some people, supervision may be required.
Watch your weight: For a diabetic person, controlling weight to a desirable level of BMI of 18 and 23 is very important. Obesity is one of the predisposing factors for diabetes, and reducing weight controls the onset of diabetes and helps the progression of symptoms in diabetics.
Smoking: Another risk factor for diabetes onset, quitting is the best option. If not feasible, reducing smoking and gradually quitting should be aimed at. Not just diabetes, the effects on overall health will be evident almost immediately after quitting.
Stress management: One of the main risk factors for diabetes, there is no getting away from stress. Everybody has their stresses but the trick is to manage it well. Whether it is music or meditation or medication or counselling, make sure stress levels are managed. This also helps prevent diabetic complications like heart disease and stroke and promotes well-being.
Constant Checkups: Periodic check-up of blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, eye exam, dental checkup, foot checkup to test for nerve damage are all extremely important. Take your medications regularly without fail.
Diabetes requires a change in lifestyle, which may seem tedious initially. But after a while, it will become the norm and then diabetic control does not feel like something additional that is to be done.