Reduce Diabetes Risk of Bad Stuff
This can be really scary. Folks with diabetes almost always have some bad stuff, stuff like nerve damage in our feet, eyes, and kidneys as examples.This is not “so what” stuff, rather these can be the beginning of pain, amputations, blindness, and kidney failure.
And what about the heart? Diabetics are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as non-diabetics. Of course we are all going to die from something eventually but these are not my preferences. I was sorta hoping to just pass on in my sleep at a ripe old age, without having spent many years in a wheel chair or camped out in the doctor’s office or hospital. So in that fervent interest, I manage my blood sugar with great care.
It is thus obvious that blood sugar is the issue with diabetes. An earlier blog, The Human Body Design is Magical – Plan B, summarizes how high blood sugar happens and how to avoid it. You might want to take a look at that. This is, of course, largely a food thing as explained in It’s All About the Food.
So your doctor says you have diabetes. And you are shocked because you didn’t have a clue. In fact, diabetes is usually uncovered when some of that bad stuff happens and diabetes seems to have come along for the ride. This is, of course, the opposite of the truth. Messed up blood sugar metabolism starts first, bringing the bad stuff along for the ride, and diabetes is usually diagnosed at the bitter end, when it is too late for prevention.
When your eyes aren’t working too well or you are in pain, you know it. But the symptoms for high blood sugar aren’t as easily identified until there is a crisis. And once the crisis happens, sometimes the doctor just prescribes medication and sends you home with an admonition to “watch your diet,” whatever that means.
But some diabetics do have a notion what “watch your diet” means but think they have so many diabetic complications like those discussed above that there just isn’t any hope. So they decide to just eat their way to the inevitable and uncomfortable end. This is an incorrect conclusion.
This report, The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and Follow-up Study published by the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, makes it clear that it is possible to make dramatic reductions in the risk for complications associated with diabetes.
“The study showed that keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible slows the onset and progression of the eye, kidney, and nerve damage caused by diabetes. In fact, it demonstrated that any sustained lowering of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, helps, even if the person has a history of poor control.”
This is all particularly good news for type 2 diabetics, the vast majority of diabetics in the world. The participants in the study were type 1 diabetics whose bodies make no insulin on their own and thus will always be on injected insulin. Intensive blood sugar control, described as maintaining an A1c below 6.0, can be more complex and difficult under those circumstances. Nor is their situation likely to change. They don’t have any insulin now and they aren’t likely to have any in the future. But they do have the ability to minimize the “demand” for insulin through their diet.
However, type 2 diabetics are most often on non-insulin medications and some (like me) are able to control their blood sugar with diet alone. They still have some level of insulin and they can learn to maximize that insulin through diet. So the situation for type 2 diabetics can be expected to improve with intensive blood sugar control.
In other words, blood sugar control manages the disease with the life style/diet changes outlined in Its All About the Food. I participate on several diabetes support Facebook pages and this recent post highlights the relationship between various complications and diabetes. This friend said,
“Yep, when I was diagnosed w(ith) diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure I asked my Dr. how to eat for all these and he told me straight out (to) research diabetes and get it under control and it will take care of the rest.”
I should note here that she has done exactly that and the doctor was exactly right.
Should you choose to read the report you will find the following risk reductions explained. Bear in mind that these are for type 1 diabetics. Risk reduction for type 2 diabetics who maintain an a1c below 6.0 is likely to be greater.
- A 76% reduction in risk of eye disease (diabetic retinopathy) and reduce progression of eye disease by 54%. Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness of all under the age of 65.
- A 50% reduction in the development and progression of kidney disease (nephropathy.) Diabetic nephropathy is the most common cause of kidney failure.
- a 60% reduction in risk of nerve damage. Nerve damage not only affects feet/hands but also blood pressure, heart rate and digestion. And it is a major contributing factor in foot and leg amputations among people with diabetes.
- 42% reduction of risk of cardiovascular disease. High blood sugar damages the heart and blood vessels, also creating peripheral artery disease. Poor circulation also increase the potential for amputations.
- 57% reduction of risk for non-fatal heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes.
In summary, just because you have diabetes does not mean you have to expect all of the common diabetic complications. The better you control your blood sugar, the lower your risk. What is perhaps more important and, in fact the reason I wrote the book, is to avoid diabetes in the first place. Life will be a lot easier. It’s All About the Food.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. She is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.