"If you look at the nationwide data, it's sobering," says Enrico
Cagliero, MD, a diabetes researcher and assistant professor of medicine at
Harvard Medical School. "A lot of diabetic patients are missing essential
"People with diabetes should know that complications aren't
inevitable," Cagliero says. "Unfortunately, we still see a lot of
complications, and a lot of those could have been prevented. It's absolutely
essential to get into this preventive mode as soon as possible. It definitely
pays down the road."
Don't miss these diabetes tests.
Diabetes Test #1: Hemoglobin A1c
This diabetes blood test, also called HbA1c, tells you and your doctor how
well diabetes is managed over time. It measures your average blood sugar in the
previous three months to see if it has stayed within a target range.
Here's how this test works. Your red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which
allows cells to transport oxygen to tissues. As a cell ages, the hemoglobin
becomes increasingly "glycated," meaning that more glucose molecules
stick to it. Higher glucose levels in the blood mean higher glycated
hemoglobin, which translates into a greater HbA1c reading.
Normal HbA1c is 5% or less.
An HbA1c value above 7% means diabetes is poorly controlled. People with
diabetes should aim for an HbA1c value below 7%.
You don't need to fast or prepare for an HbA1c test. Ask your doctor how
often you need to be tested. Doctors usually recommend every 3 to 6 months.
Keeping blood sugar under control has been proven to reduce risk of
complications. In the landmark, 10-year Diabetes Control and Complications
Trial (DCCT), researchers studied how careful blood sugar control affected the
rate of complications from type 1
diabetes. Among 1,441 subjects, those who received intensive treatment to
achieve tight blood sugar control had an average HbA1c of about 7%, while those
on standard therapy averaged about 9%. The group with tight control had much
lower risk of complications:
76% reduced risk of eye disease
50% reduced risk of kidney disease
60% reduced risk of nerve disease
Diabetes Test #2: Dilated Eye Exam
If you have diabetes, your ophthalmologist or optometrist should perform a
dilated eye exam, in which the pupils are widened with drops, to check for
signs of diabetic retinopathy.
With diabetes, high blood sugar damages tiny blood vessels in the retina,
the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. In a more advanced form
called proliferative retinopathy, new blood vessels grow along the retina and
in the clear, gel-like vitreous that fills the inside of the eye. Without
treatment, these new vessels can bleed, blur vision, severely damage the
retina, and lead to vision impairment or blindness.
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Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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