Are You at Risk for Diabetic Neuropathy? continued...
2. You've Had Diabetes for Many Years
The risk: Nerve pain and damage is more common in people who have had diabetes for a longer period of time.
What you can do: Do your best to monitor your blood sugar at home as often as advised by your doctor. The NDIC also advises having the A1c test, a blood test that measures your average blood glucose control over the previous 2 to 3 months, at least twice a year. Trence advises taking the A1c more often as an extra measure of control. "I think most of us believe it should be done every 3 to 4 months," she says. "It can vary, but we need to keep on top of things, and it's such a powerful piece of information to have to complement the patient's own blood sugars."
3. You're Overweight
The risk: Being overweight is double trouble for people with diabetes. It puts you at higher risk of diabetic nerve damage -- and higher risk of deadly diabetes complications like heart attack and stroke.
What you can do: Losing weight is hard for everyone, since meals are loaded with emotional meaning, well-being, satisfaction -- or frustration. So if you're overweight, be patient -- but consistent -- with yourself. Losing even a few extra pounds can be a big boost to your health, says the ADA. You really can control this risk with a balanced diet and exercise plan designed for slow, safe weight loss. And losing weight means less pressure on those tender feet if you already have diabetic nerve pain.
4. You're Off-Target With Your Blood Fats
The risk: The wrong levels of fats in your blood put you at higher risk of diabetic neuropathy. Often, people with diabetes have too-high levels of the blood fat called triglycerides, says the ADA. To make matters worse, an elevated LDL ("bad cholesterol") can increase the risk of a heart attack. A grim truth: 65% of deaths in people with diabetes will be due to a heart attack or stroke, according the ADA.
What you can do: Find out your numbers, if you're not sure. Have your cholesterol and trigylcerides checked at least once a year. Most people with diabetes aim for these target levels, says the ADA:
LDL cholesterol: below 100 mg/dL HDL cholesterol: above 40 mg/dL for men above 50 mg/dL for women Triglycerides: below 150 mg/dL
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines. Check with your doctor to see if your target levels are different, given your medical condition.