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Monitoring Blood Sugar and Avoiding Diabetes Complications

Maintaining control of blood glucose (blood sugar) is a fact of life for people with diabetes. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications that affect nearly every system and organ in your body. Regular blood sugar tests throughout the day can help you maintain safe blood glucose levels and lower the risks for a host of diabetes complications:  

Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common complications of diabetes, leading to heart attack, stroke, angina, and coronary artery disease. About 65% of people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than people without diabetes.

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It was the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Eight of the top swimmers in the world were lined up, ready to hit the pool for the 50-meter freestyle. The buzzer sounded. They propelled themselves into the water. In just under 22 seconds, the race was over. American Gary Hall Jr. had won gold, tying with teammate Anthony Ervin for the medal. Only a few elite athletes can claim a gold win at the Olympic Games, but what makes Hall's achievement even more exceptional is that he did it only a...

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Hypertension (High Blood Pressure). People with diabetes are also at greater risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure), which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and eye problems.

High Cholesterol Levels. People with diabetes, especially those with poorly controlled blood sugars, tend to have elevated levels of triglycerides and lower levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. People with type 2 diabetes tend to have similar LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels compared to those without diabetes, but their LDL particles seem to be smaller and more prone to cause damage. These abnormalities also increase the risk of heart disease for people with type 2 diabetes.

Vision Loss or Blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for American adults High blood sugar leads to blurred vision, glaucoma, cataracts, and can cause loss of vision or blindness (diabetic retinopathy). Keeping your blood sugars under control will greatly reduce your risks of diabetes-related eye complications.

Diabetic Neuropathy (Nerve Damage). Diabetic neuropathy can lead to problems throughout your body, including the nerves that control your senses of vision, hearing, and taste. Nerve damage can also cause you to lose the ability to feel heat, pain, or cold. Small cuts or other wounds, like blisters, might not get noticed, or heal slowly, increasing the risk for skin infections and ulcerations.

Diabetic neuropathy can affect the nerves that control your digestive system. Diabetic gastroparesis is a disorder in which the movement of food through the digestive tract is slowed or stopped. This type of nerve damage can cause wide fluctuations in blood sugar and make glucose control difficult. In men with diabetes, diabetes can damage nerves and blood flow in the penis, leading to erectile dysfunction.

Kidney Disease. The kidneys filter waste products out of your blood.  But kidney disease affects more than just your blood. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. Kidney disease doubles your risk of heart attack, stroke, and early death. High blood sugars progressively damage your kidneys over time, and signs of kidney damage also represent a risk factor for heart disease.

Skin Conditions. A host of skin problems are associated with diabetes. Fungal infections, yeast infections, itching, blisters, and boils are common skin issues for people with diabetes. Even though anyone can develop these skin conditions, diabetic people can be more susceptible to infections and slow healing. About one-third of people with diabetes will develop a diabetes-related skin disorder during their life.

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If the level is below 70 or 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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