Taking control of your diabetes will help you head off the complications that can come with it. You can reduce your risk of heart attacks, stroke, damage to your kidneys and nerves, and loss of vision by keeping your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure in check.
A diabetes care and education specialist can help you. They’ll work with you to find the best ways to eat healthy, be active, monitor your blood sugar, take medication, solve problems and cope in a healthy way.
Here are some things you should do to help reduce your risks and avoid other health problems:
- Don’t smoke – Smoking is bad news, especially if you have diabetes. It raises your blood sugar and weakens your body’s ability to respond to insulin. It can make vision problems develop faster, and it hurts your lungs and your heart. In fact, people with diabetes who smoke are three times more likely to die of heart disease or stroke than those who don’t smoke. A diabetes care and education specialist can help you quit.
- See your doctor regularly – Plan to see your doctor about every three months, unless told otherwise. Your doctor will check your weight, blood pressure, feet and eyes. He or she also may order regular tests to check your kidneys, cholesterol levels and A1C (average blood sugar control over the past 2-3 months). Be sure to get a flu shot every year, too. Keep a record of all of the tests you should have regularly, and know what the targets are for each test.
- Visit the eye doctor at least once a year – An eye doctor can spot problems with your vision early and help prevent them. Tell the eye doctor you have diabetes, and make sure the exam includes dilating your pupils.
- Don’t forget the dentist – Having diabetes means you are at higher risk of cavities and gum disease, so be sure to see your dentist every six months. And don’t forget to brush and floss regularly.
- Take care of your feet – Keep your feet dry and clean. Don’t use shoes that are too tight or rub against your feet, as those may cause sores. Check your feet every day for sores. Use a mirror or have someone check them. Diabetes damages your nerves so you might not be able to feel if you have a sore. If you do, let your doctor know right away.
- Listen to your body – If you don’t feel well, or something just doesn’t seem right, contact your doctor to help you figure out what’s wrong, and what you should do about it.
For more information, download a flyer on reducing risks, which includes a list of things you should be doing. It also includes recommended tests, target levels and how often you should get them.