Living with diabetes blog

Why high blood sugar is bad

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. March 2, 2011

You've been told that high blood sugar causes complications, but have you ever wondered why? Diabetes often has no obvious symptoms. Occasionally, a patient tells us that maybe high blood sugar is normal for him or her. But there's no such thing as "a touch of diabetes" or having blood sugar that is "a little high."

Blood sugar actually coats red blood cells (hemoglobin), causing them to become stiff. These "sticky cells" interfere with blood circulation, causing cholesterol to build up on the inside of your blood vessels. It can take months to years for the damage to your body to appear. The fragile blood vessels in your eyes, kidneys and feet are most susceptible, so problems are usually noticed first in those areas.

Controlling high blood sugar may help prevent or decrease many long-term diabetes complications, such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Eye problems that can lead to trouble seeing or blindness
  • Nerve damage in your hands and feet that can cause pain, tingling and numbness
  • Kidney problems, including kidney failure
  • Gum disease and tooth loss

Some damage to the body may already start occurring during prediabetes — a condition in which your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Research has shown that if you have prediabetes, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by almost 60 percent through lifestyle changes. These changes include increasing your physical activity and modest weight loss — losing as little as 5 to 7 percent of your current weight. That's a huge risk reduction from small changes!

Ultimately, diabetes is a chronic health condition that can affect many aspects of your health. It's important that you take high blood sugar seriously. Regular follow-up care may help you better manage the disease and live an active, healthy life.

Peggy

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Mar. 02, 2011