Avoiding Diabetes Complications

Avoiding Diabetes Complications
Erica Beukelman, owner of 10.11 Makeup, used neutral, fresh hues on this bride, along with lush lashes and a pretty pink pout. (Photo by Joel Beukelman for 10.11)

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you can help in the fight to avoid complications like heart problems, nerve pain and neuropathy, and foot problems. Here’s what you can do right now:

Lose weight. About 80% to 90% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Losing excess weight helps control blood sugar and improve diabetes.



Monitor your blood sugar. Check glucose levels at least two times a day. Keep your blood-sugar levels as close to normal as possible, or within the range advised by your doctor. It helps to keep a log so you can track your progress and determine the effect of diet and activity on your levels.


High blood-sugar levels can cause a lot of harm. For example, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels that feed the eye’s retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy, which can result in blurred vision and even blindness. High blood-sugar levels can damage the kidneys, too. Taking regularly a test called an A1C will measure your average blood sugar over the past two to three months. Most people with Type 2 diabetes should aim for an A1C result of 7% or lower. Ask your doctor how often you need to get an A1C test. 


Pay attention to your carbohydrate intake. Keep track of how many carbohydrates you eat and how often you eat them. Managing your carb intake can keep blood-sugar levels under control. Try to eat high-fiber complex carbs such as green vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains.


Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control. Heart disease is a common complication of diabetes, so try to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at normal levels. Ask your doctor to set goals for your cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. 


Keep moving. Regular exercise helps you lose weight; controls blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels; and reduces stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. Start out slowly if you have been sedentary. Exercise for diabetes control can include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, swimming, tennis or riding a stationary bike. 


Get sufficient sleep. When you are sleep deprived, you tend to eat more and you can put on weight that will set you up for complications. People with diabetes who get enough sleep often have healthier eating habits and better blood-sugar levels.


Manage stress. Excess stress can elevate blood sugar. Learn stress-reduction techniques that work for you, such as sitting quietly, meditating or practicing yoga.


See your doctor every year. At your annual physical, your doctor should give you a dilated-eye exam, check your blood pressure, examine your feet and screen you for other complications such as signs of kidney damage, nerve damage and heart disease.


Reprinted with permission from the 

American Diabetes Assn. (