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Diabetes Outlook

Reducing Your Risk for Complications of Diabetes

Very high or very low glucose levels are extremely dangerous. People with diabetes must learn to avoid roller-coaster glucose levels.

Even relatively small ups and downs in glucose levels over a period of years can result in damage to your body. The better you can control glucose levels, the less damage will be done. Many complications can be delayed or even prevented by keeping your blood glucose as close to normal ranges as is safe for you.

Let's look at some of the more common complications of diabetes, and how to lower your risk for them.

Cardiovascular Complications

Over time, poorly controlled diabetes can damage your cardiovascular system. That's the medical name for the heart and network of blood vessels that carry blood to every part of your body.

Blood supplies the cells in your body with the building material and the energy they need. Blood also carries away the waste products your cells produce. When something interferes with blood flow, the cells in the affected area can't function properly. If their blood supply is cut off entirely, they die.

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, often goes hand-in-hand with diabetes. In hypertension, the blood inside your blood vessels is pumped at a higher-than-normal pressure. As a result, the blood presses too hard against the inside of the vessel walls.

If this pressure isn't brought down to normal levels, eventually it will damage the insides of the blood vessels. To get an exaggerated idea of how hypertension works, imagine hooking up your garden hose to a fire hydrant and turning it on full blast. Because the hose was never designed for this sort of pressure, chances are, it will soon split or bulge out.

Blood pressure is described using two numbers. The first of these numbers is the pressure in a person's blood vessels when the heart is
actually pumping. The second number is the pressure inside the blood vessels between heartbeats.

If you have diabetes, your blood pressure should be 120/80 or less. (This is said as, "120 over 80.") If either of these two numbers is higher, a person is considered to have hypertension or "pre" hypertension. Untreated hypertension can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke and kidney damage.

High blood pressure cannot be cured, but fortunately, it can be treated. Lifestyle changes and medicine both have a role to play in bringing blood pressure back to normal levels.

Lifestyle changes are the first line of defense. These changes may help you lower your blood pressure:

• Limit the amount of salt (sodium) in your diet
• Keep weight within a
healthy range
• Exercise regularly
• If you drink alcohol, choose to drink less or only drink in moderation
• Don't smoke
• Reduce stress

Lifestyle changes by themselves aren't always enough

Many people also need medications to help them lower their blood pressure. A wide range of blood pressure lowering medications are available by prescription. These medications work in several different ways and have different advantages and disadvantages. Your doctor will help you decide which blood pressure medication is best for you.

The contents of DiabetesOutlook.com are intended solely for informational purposes and do not replace the advice of your physician or diabetes care team. You should not rely on any information provided by DiabetesOutlook.com without also consulting your physician. DiabetesOutlook.com maintains all information collected in accordance with applicable law.

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