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Staying Healthy with Diabetes

What routine medical examinations and tests are needed for people with diabetes?

Your doctors should—

  • Measure your blood pressure at every visit.
  • Check your feet for sores at every visit, and give a thorough foot exam at least once a year.
  • Give you a hemoglobin A1C test at least twice a year to determine what your average blood glucose level was for the past 2 to 3 months.
  • Test your urine and blood to check your kidney function at least once a year.
  • Test your blood lipids (fats)—total cholesterol; LDL, or low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol); HDL, or high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol); and triglycerides at least once a year.

You should also get a dental checkup twice a year, a dilated eye exam once a year, an annual flu shot, and a pneumonia shot.

For more information, see Tests and Goals for Each Visit and Tests and Goals for Each Year from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) publication, Take Charge of Your Diabetes.

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How does maintaining healthy blood glucose levels help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Research studies in the United States and other countries have shown that controlling blood glucose benefits people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In general, for every 1% reduction in results of A1C blood tests (e.g., from 8.0% to 7.0%), the risk of developing eye, kidney, and nerve disease is reduced by 40%.

For more information, see Controlling Your Diabetes from the CDC’s publication, Take Charge of Your Diabetes.

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How does maintaining a healthy body weight help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Couple cutting vegetables

Most people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Excess weight, particularly in the abdomen, makes it difficult for cells to respond to insulin, resulting in high blood glucose. Often, people with type 2 diabetes are able to lower their blood glucose by losing weight and increasing physical activity. Losing weight also helps lower the risk for other health problems that especially affect people with diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease.

For more information, see

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How does maintaining a healthy blood pressure level help people with diabetes stay healthy?

About 70% of adults with diabetes have high blood pressure or use prescription medications to reduce high blood pressure. Maintaining normal blood pressure—less than 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) helps to prevent damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart, and blood vessels. Blood pressure measurements are written like a fraction, with the two numbers separated by a slash. The first number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats (systolic pressure); the second number represents the pressure in the vessels when your heart is at rest (diastolic pressure).

In general, for every 10 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure (the first number in the fraction), the risk for any complication related to diabetes is reduced by 12%. Maintaining normal blood pressure control can reduce the risk of eye, kidney, and nerve disease (microvascular disease) by approximately 33%, and the risk of heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease) by approximately 33% to 50%. Healthy eating, medications, and physical activity can help you bring high blood pressure down.

For more information, see

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How does maintaining healthy cholesterol levels help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Vegetables

Several things, including having diabetes, can make your blood cholesterol level too high. When cholesterol is too high, the insides of large blood vessels become narrowed, even clogged, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, the biggest health problems for people with diabetes. Maintaining normal cholesterol levels will help prevent these diseases and can help prevent circulation problems—an issue for people with diabetes. Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Total cholesterol should be less than 200; LDL (“bad” cholesterol) should be less than 100; HDL (“good” cholesterol) should be more than 40 in men and more than 50 in women; and triglycerides should be less than 150. Healthy eating, medications, and physical activity can help you reach your cholesterol targets. Keeping cholesterol levels under control can reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications of diabetes by 20% to 50%.

For more information, see

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How does exercise help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Physical activity can help you control your blood glucose, weight, and blood pressure, as well as raise your “good” cholesterol and lower your “bad” cholesterol. It also can help prevent heart and blood flow problems.

Experts recommend moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days of the week. Talk to your health care provider about a safe exercise plan. He or she may check your heart and your feet to be sure you have no special problems. If you have high blood pressure, eye, or foot problems you may need to avoid some kinds of exercise.

For more information, see

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How does quitting smoking help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Smoking puts people with diabetes at particular risk. Smoking raises your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure, all of which people with diabetes need to be especially concerned about. When you have diabetes and use tobacco, the risk of heart and blood vessel problems is even greater. If you quit smoking, you'll lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, kidney disease, and oral disease.

For more information, see

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Why is it important for people with diabetes to get an annual flu shot?

Diabetes can make the immune system more vulnerable to severe cases of the flu. People with diabetes who come down with the flu may become very sick and may die. You can help keep yourself from getting the flu by getting a flu shot every year. Everyone with diabetes—even pregnant women—should get a yearly flu shot. The best time to get one is between October and mid-November, before the flu season begins.

For more information, see

  • Vaccinations from the CDC’s publication, Take Charge of Your Diabetes

 
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