Curb Diabetes Complications
Most of the time, I tell you about ways to help prevent diseases like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. But sometimes you can find prevention isn’t enough, and despite the best efforts to manage the disease, complications can arise. This is particularly true for Type II diabetes.
According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, three out of every five Americans with Type II diabetes experience at least one complication. And these complications can range from merely unpleasant to deadly. But diabetic complications don’t just take a toll on your health, they can exact a financial toll too – costing diabetics about $4,100 more each year to treat these problems.
Three on a Match
Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans, and most of these folks have Type II, which develops and progresses based largely on age, weight and diet. But, even though diabetes is dubbed a “lifestyle disease,” not everyone with the condition can control blood sugar levels. It’s this lack of control that contributes to the development of most complications.
While diabetes can trigger all sorts of complications, including erectile dysfunction, nerve damage, and foot problems, three are of particular concern.
Cardiovascular Disease – A survey by the American Diabetes Association found that many people don’t realize how common heart attacks and strokes are among diabetics. Yet compared to people without the disease, those with diabetes are four times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke at an earlier age. And they have a much greater chance of dying from that heart attack or stroke. In fact, more than 65 percent of people with diabetes do die from heart disease or stroke. Why? High blood sugar levels increase the likelihood of blockages in blood vessels, impairing blood flow to the heart or brain.
Vision Loss – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people with diabetes who could lose their eyesight due to cataracts, glaucoma, or retinopathy (damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, a leading cause of blindness) will skyrocket as baby boomers age. When eye tissue is exposed to glucose for long periods, small Reversirol blood vessels swell and leak, slowly damaging it.
Kidney Disease – One in three people with diabetes is likely to develop kidney disease (nephropathy), boosting their chance of kidney failure. Elevated blood sugar means the kidneys must work overtime to filter blood, which compromises their efficiency. Over the long haul, the kidneys fail to work at all. If high blood pressure is also part of the picture, as it often is with diabetes, kidney disease can progress very rapidly.
Even though these complications can be dire, there are steps you can take to steer clear of them. Of course, the first step is probably a familiar one: Change what you eat. But just avoiding sugar may not be enough. You may need to adopt a full-out low-glycemic diet.
The glycemic index (GI) ranks foods based on the effect they have on your blood sugar levels – and the lower the index, the better. It’s no surprise sugary foods and refined carbohydrates like white bread and white rice are not low-GI, but you may not know that whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and some high-fiber cereals, while healthful, are not as low-GI as other carbohydrates like beans and oats.
During a six-month study of 210 people with Type II diabetes, the participants followed either a low-GI diet or a high-fiber diet. While both groups saw modest decreases in blood sugar, the drop was greater in the low-GI group. What’s more, the low-GI group had higher blood levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs, the “good” cholesterol), while the high-fiber group saw HDLs actually drop slightly.
Of course, what you eat is only part of the solution. How much you eat also matters since losing unwanted pounds can reduce the risk of complications. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research found that diabetics who lost 10 percent of their body weight were nearly twice as likely to reach their target blood sugar and blood pressure levels as those who didn’t lose weight. These improvements stuck with them for at least three years, even if the weight lost was gained back.
Being at a healthy weight helps people with diabetes improve glucose control by increasing the body’s ability to recognize insulin and enhancing the ability of individual cells to use glucose. Weight-loss also helps lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and triglycerides. And don’t forget the value of exercise in losing weight – it’s also helpful for keeping glucose levels on an even keel.