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How to reduce the risk of long-term complications with type 2 diabetes

Long-term health risks and the short-term actions that can improve your outlook

Managing type 2 diabetes can feel intimidating at first. There’s a lot to remember. Suddenly you’re learning about new medication names, numbers, and equipment. Not to mention the anxiety around potential long-term complications of a progressive disease.

By taking simple, decisive actions on a day-to-day basis, however, you can significantly boost your long-term health prospects. Here are some helpful tips to get you started!

1. Long-term complication - Heart attack & stroke

Short-term action - Maintain stable blood sugar


High blood glucose is toxic to the body. Therefore, a key part of type 2 diabetes management is to keep blood sugar levels in balance.

High blood sugar causes corrosion in the arteries, leading to a build-up of fats and cholesterol that restricts blood flow and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level (or Hb1Ac), around 6.5%, puts you in a strong position to avoid long-term complications.

Read more about cardiovascular risk and type 2 diabetes.

2. Long-term complication - Foot damage & amputation

Short-term action - Walk regularly


A potential complication linked to diabetes is foot problems, including symptoms like nerve damage, dry skin, calluses, and sores that won’t heal. This is a result of poor blood flow and, if left untreated, can lead to amputation of the foot.

A good preventative measure is to walk regularly to improve circulation. Massaging and caring for your feet is also helpful. Ask your doctor to examine your feet during each visit and, if possible, arrange a thorough foot examination every year.

In general, it’s a good idea to walk at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

3. Long-term complication - Obesity & cardiovascular disease

Short-term action - Understand nutrition


As well as destabilising your blood sugar levels, poor nutrition can also lead to weight problems. This places extra strain on the heart, which is already at higher risk of cardiovascular disease due to type 2 diabetes.

In conjunction with regular exercise, a good place to start is a healthy meal plan. Book a consultation with a nutritionist who has experience with diabetes. Together, you can co-create a diet that’s healthy but also customised to your personal tastes.

By regulating your diet and physical exercise, you limit the variables of diabetes management, greatly reducing your chances of developing severe long-term complications.

Read more about how to manage type 2 diabetes with diet.


If you need help getting your health under control, speak to your doctor about revising your type 2 diabetes management plan.

References

1. Beckman J A, Creager M A and Libby P. Diabetes and atherosclerosis: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and management. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;287:2570-2581.

2. Bucala R, Makita Z, Koschinsky T, et al. Lipid advanced glycosylation: pathway for lipid oxidation in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 1993;90:6434-6438.

3. Napoli C, Triggiani M, Palumbo G, et al. Glycosylation enhances oxygen radical-induced modifications and decreases acetylhydrolase activity of human low density lipoprotein. Basic research in cardiology. 1997;92:96-105.

4. Libby P, Buring J E, Badimon L, et al. Atherosclerosis (Primer). Nature Reviews: Disease Primers. 2019.

5. Palasubramaniam J, Wang X and Peter K. Myocardial Infarction—From Atherosclerosis to Thrombosis: Uncovering New Diagnostic and Therapeutic Approaches. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology. 2019;39:e176-e185.

6. Guide to HbA1c. Diabetes.co.uk, 15 January 2019. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/what-is-hba1c.html

7. Almdal T, Scharling H, Jensen J S, et al. The independent effect of type 2 diabetes mellitus on ischemic heart disease, stroke, and death: a population-based study of 13 000 men and women with 20 years of follow-up. Archives of internal medicine. 2004;164:1422-1426.

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