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Dodging diabetes damage
Stick to your diabetes plan to avoid complications

Tips to ward off serious consequences

Learning you have diabetes can be frightening. But with proactive lifestyle measures, regular healthcare and medication, you can limit complications and live a long and healthy life. To prevent problems, you’ll need to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol under control and take these steps:

  • Follow the nutrition plan set by your doctor or dietitian.
  • Get to and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes nearly every day.
  • Keep hands and feet clean and dry. Check for sores, blisters or problems every day. Treat cuts right away.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Keep your blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg.
  • Ask your doctor whether you should take aspirin every day.
  • Visit an eye-care professional yearly for a complete eye exam.
  • Get your flu shot each year.
  • Get vaccinated against pneumonia. If you’re over age 64 and your last shot was more than five years ago, get another.
  • See your dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings. Brush and floss every day.

Experts estimate that more than 20 million Americans now have diabetes—but that nearly one-third of them don’t know it yet. In fact, many people learn they have diabetes not from telltale symptoms that send them to a doctor, but from routine screening tests. And without symptoms, it can be difficult to appreciate the serious consequences diabetes can have on your health—complications such as heart disease, vision loss, nerve damage, amputations, kidney failure and death.

Having diabetes means your body doesn’t produce or properly use insulin, the hormone that’s essential to get sugar, or glucose, from food into your cells to use as energy. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, depriving your cells of energy; increasing your risk for infection; and damaging blood vessels, nerves and other parts of your body. The diagram at right illustrates the toll diabetes can take when you don’t manage the condition properly.


  • nerve damage (neuropathy)


  • depression


  • blurry vision
  • cataracts
  • glaucoma
  • blindness


  • red, infected, swollen gums
  • loose teeth


  • infections
  • itchiness
  • diabetic dermopathy (light brown scaly patches)
  • blisters
  • acanthosis nigricans (gray-black warty patches)


  • slowed or stopped food movement through digestive tract
  • intestinal blockages


  • birth defects
  • too-large babies
  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth


  • kidney damage
  • kidney failure


  • loss of sensation
  • sores
  • ulcers
  • infections
  • amputations


  • narrowing of the arteries
  • high blood pressure
  • coronary artery disease
  • angina
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • high triglyceride levels
  • low “good” cholesterol levels

© 2014 Dowden Health Media