by Sean Barrett, Lead Registered Dietitian / Nutritionist
As we enter full-force into the holiday season, it’s a great time to focus on your diabetes self-care and also remind yourself that there are many things that you can do to prevent or delay diabetes symptoms.
Let’s look at a few of these, as well steps that you can take to ward off diabetes complications:
Check your blood sugars regularly. Check it often if you take insulin or a sulfonylurea, glimepiride, and glipizide. Definitely check your blood sugar before you get in your car to drive, or before operating machinery and always carry treatment for lows with you wherever you go: glucose tablets and juice are good choices. If you have more than one or two lows per week, talk with your health-care team about how you might tweak your medication, food, or physical activity to help prevent these episodes in the first place.
Cuts or sores that don’t heal, calluses, redness, warm skin, and pain are all red flags. Lack of circulation and nerve damage are often the culprit, along with constant high blood sugars. People who have diabetes are at high risk for amputation;, this can easily be prevented by practicing good foot care. Take a peek at your feet every day. Look for the above signs and let your health-care provider know if you’re not seeing any improvement after 24 hours.
Diabetic eye disease, which includes retinopathy, is highly preventable, but it’s also a leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness. In early stages, there may be no symptoms of diabetic eye disease. Early detection, treatment, and follow-up are proven ways to protect against vision loss. Always take any changes in your vision very seriously; in particular, if you see dark spots or floaters, or have blurred vision, impaired color vision, or have any vision loss, call your doctor right away.
High blood sugars can wreak havoc with your gums and teeth. Specifically, glucose can lead to bacteria growth, which can cause plaque to build up on your teeth. If the plaque isn’t removed, it can harden into tartar, eventually causing your gums to become swollen and bleed easily. Advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, can set in, raising the risk of tooth loss.
People who have diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure (blood pressure of 140/90 or higher) than people who do not.. High blood pressure, if not treated, can raise the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. You may not have any symptoms if you have high blood pressure, which is why it’s so important to get your blood pressure checked regularly. For most people with diabetes, the blood pressure goal is less than 140/90; your goal may be different, so find that out from your doctor.