Getting Older? Get These Tests

When you have diabetes, you need to worry about other health conditions, too. The longer you have the disease -- into your 50s and beyond -- the greater you are at risk for problems with your feet, your vision, your heart, your kidneys, and more.

This is why it’s crucial to see your doctor often: He’ll make sure that you have your diabetes under control, and he’ll see if other health problems are cropping up. You’ll probably need to visit his office every 3 months unless he tells you to come less often. (Some people who have their diabetes well under control may only need to visit the doctor every 6 months.)

These tests will help make sure you aren’t at risk of further health problems:

Blood Sugar Test

Your doctor needs to know how well you control your blood sugar levels. He’ll give you an A1c test, which shows your average over the past 3 months. If you have it under control, he may only need to do this test every 6 months. If you’re still getting there, you’ll need to be tested every 3 months. You should aim for an A1c level around 7% to avoid more health problems.

Get it done: Every 3 to 6 months

Blood Pressure Check

People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure, which raises your chances of getting heart disease. Your doctor should check your blood pressure at every office visit. If it’s too high, he may suggest lifestyle changes or prescribe a drug to help lower it. You want your readings to be below 140/90.

Get it done: Every time you see your doctor

Weight

If you’re overweight, your doctor may talk to you about your diet and exercise plan. Those extra pounds can make it harder to manage your blood sugar. Losing weight can help lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change; your health can improve if you lose even 10 or 15 pounds.

Get it done: Every time you see your doctor

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Foot Exam

Foot problems are common with diabetes, so you and your doctor need to stay on top of your foot health. You should carefully wash, dry, and inspect your feet at home every day. Nerve damage in your feet and legs can keep you from noticing when you hurt yourself. Your doctor will want to check them at each office visit.

People with diabetes also may have blood flow problems, which makes it harder for foot wounds to heal. A tiny cut, sore, or blister could grow into a foot ulcer that’s tricky to treat. If it gets severely infected, your foot or leg may need to be removed.

Get it done: Every time you see your doctor

Dental Checkup

Don’t neglect your mouth. When you have diabetes, you’re at greater risk of gum disease. It’s more likely when your blood sugar is out of whack. Even if you have it under control through brushing, flossing and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash, you should still see your dentist for checkups to make sure your mouth is healthy.

Get it done: Every 6 months

Kidney Test

You’re more likely to have kidney disease when you have diabetes, so your doctor will want to monitor them. He’ll test your urine to make sure your kidneys are working like they should. If you have kidney disease, treating it early can keep it from getting worse.

Get it done: Every year

Cholesterol Test

High cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease. Your doctor will check them at least yearly to make sure they’re in a healthy range. He can prescribe medicine to lower your cholesterol if you need it.

Get it done: Every year

Eye Exam

People with diabetes are at greater risk of vision problems. You’re more likely to have trouble with your eyes if your blood sugar or blood pressure levels are too high. To keep tabs on your vision and eye health, see an eye doctor at least yearly for a thorough exam. He’ll dilate your pupils to see whether you have any problems.

Get it done: Every year

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 10, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Andrew Bremer, MD, PhD, program director, diabetes division, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “The A1C Test and Diabetes.”

American Diabetes Association: “High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).”

American Diabetes Association: “Overweight: Your Weight and Your Risk.”

American Diabetes Association: “Foot Complications.”

American Diabetes Association: “Diabetes and Oral Health Problems.”

National Institute on Aging: “Diabetes in older people: A disease you can manage.”

American Diabetes Association: “Kidney Disease (Nephropathy).”

American Diabetes Association: “Eye Care.”

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