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Health Complications for People with Diabetes: Why Being Proactive is Important

Preventing diabetes from developing in the first place would always be the most desirable option, however with the diagnosis rates of diabetes skyrocketing, prevention is no longer an option. According to the 2012 Diabetes Report Card released for the Centers for Disease Control, between 1990 and 2010, the annual number of newly diagnosed diabetes cases has almost tripled.

Diabetes is a serious illness that increases your risk for many other health complications, ranging from minor inconveniences to downright deadly. Fortunately, when recommended treatment and lifestyle changes are made, many people living with diabetes can prevent most, if not all health complications.

In the early stages, you may feel fine or experience just minor symptoms that are easy to ignore. But diabetes can affect a number of major organs, resulting in long term complications that can result in disabling or life-threatening conditions.

Short-term health effects

Short-term complications of diabetes are more likely to occur when the illness is uncontrolled and untreated; they are common for those who are fail to make lifestyle changes that can help manage their diabetes.

These negative health effects can include:

  • Fungal and bacterial infections can develop due to a diminished immune system. Ear infections, urinary tract infections, bladder, vaginal and other infections are more common in those who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Gum disease and a loss of teeth due to inflamed, swollen gums and pockets of pus between teeth and gums.
  • Fatigue is common due to inadequate insulin.
  • Vision troubles such as blurred vision as excessive blood sugar can drain fluids from eye tissue.
  • Vomiting, stomach pain or nausea may also develop.

Long-term health effects

There are many potential long-term health complications of diabetes; being proactive can make the difference in whether or not they develop.

Just a few of these negative effects can include:

  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage.
  • Kidney damage
  • Long term vision problems, including blindness
  • Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood circulation that can eventually result in amputation of a limb, or a toe
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Hearing impairment

Being proactive to manage your diabetes

Being proactive by changing your lifestyle and eating habits are absolutely key to preventing both short and long-term complications of diabetes. For many people this can mean a total transformation of their usual habits. While this may be difficult in the beginning, over time you’ll develop new habits that will help you to achieve optimal overall health and better well-being.

Losing weight

Being overweight is the number one risk factor for developing diabetes. If you’ve been diagnosed, there is a strong chance that you are also overweight. Weight loss can not only help to prevent diabetes from developing, it can also help to stop the progression of diabetes in those who have already been diagnosed.

The American Diabetes Association has recommended aiming for small, but consistent weight loss such as ½ pound to 1 pound per week. By following the suggested diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep recommendations as well, this should naturally occur.

Most of the time, being overweight is due to poor food choices over extended periods which leads us to the single most important aspect of controlling diabetes.


Diet is a major factor in controlling diabetes and decreasing the chances of developing other health issues. Your diet should consist of an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, foods that contain healthy fats like nuts and seeds, wild-caught salmon, olive oil and coconut oil, in addition to high fiber, foods like legumes.

Some health and nutrition experts recommend whole grains, but there is a growing body of evidence that consuming them can raise insulin levels as well as cause damage to the lining of the gut and increase inflammation – particularly those that are highly processed.

Foods that should be avoided include:

  • Processed and fast foods; anything that contains ingredients like trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings, artificial colorings and other food additives.
  • High sugar foods as well as those that contain artificial sweetener or hidden sugars such as lactose, dextrose, maltose, sucrose malt syrup, honey, agave nectar and fruit juice concentrates.
  • Vegetable, corn, canola, soybean, sunflower and safflower oils which can contribute to insulin resistance, cause weight gain and increase inflammation.


Regular workouts are also essential for managing diabetes. During physical activity, the muscles use up sugar, or glucose, for energy. This helps to improve your response to insulin, working to reduce blood sugar levels.

Moderate to intense exercise offers the longest lasting effects. In addition to regular aerobic workouts, it’s also important to incorporate as much physical activity into your day as possible.

Get up and move as often as you can, such as riding an exercise bike while watching TV, walking around your office every 60 minutes or so, parking your car further out in the lot, or taking a walk while talking on the phone. Gardening and household chores are also helpful; any type of physical activity can aid in lowering your blood sugar level.

Keep in mind that it’s important to stay hydrated during all activity, and all day long, as dehydration can negatively affect blood sugar levels.

Stress reduction and sleep

Regular exercise will help to reduce the effects of stress, but when facing an especially stressful situation, consider incorporating deep-breathing exercise or meditation into your day. Too much stress can result in an increased level of the hormone cortisol which can interfere with the ability to regulate blood sugar, increase insulin, suppress thyroid function, slow fat burning and even increase belly fat.

Not getting enough sleep can also raise cortisol levels and impair insulin use; getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night is highly recommended. If you’re having trouble getting enough rest, consider shutting off all electronics an hour prior to going to bed or practicing deep breathing just before bedtime.

Inspirational stories of celebrities who battle diabetes

There are a number of celebrities who have transformed their lives, and their health, for the better after being diagnosed with diabetes. Changing lifestyle habits have enabled many well-known people to enjoy a high quality of life without the complications the illness can bring.

Famed American Idol judge and musician Randy Jackson was diagnosed with the illness back in 1999. At the time he was considered morbidly obese, weighing more than 350 pounds. The diagnosis was said to have sparked a new dedication to becoming fit and healthy. He underwent gastric bypass surgery, overhauled his diet and began exercising. He continues to monitor his blood sugar levels but has been able to manage his diabetes without medication for more than six years.

Grammy Award-winning singer Patti LaBelle was diagnosed with diabetes after she collapsed on stage in the 1990s. An uncle, aunt, her mother and grandmother all had diabetes; her mother had to have both legs amputated and her uncle went blind due to the illness. LaBelle decided to take control by making major diet chances and incorporating more physical activity into her daily routine. At 69 years old, she enjoys good health and has even written several healthy recipe books to inspire others.

Make changes today to enjoy a better future

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, use this opportunity to spark a new life of health and fitness that can begin today. While such major changes can feel overwhelming at first, the rewards of better health and well-being are certainly well-worth the effort.


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