Diabetes care: 10 ways to avoid diabetes complications

Diabetes care is a lifelong responsibility. Consider 10 strategies to prevent diabetes complications.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Diabetes is a serious disease. Following your diabetes treatment plan takes round-the-clock commitment. But your efforts are worthwhile. Careful diabetes care can reduce your risk of serious — even life-threatening — complications.

Here are 10 ways to take an active role in diabetes care and enjoy a healthier future.

1. Make a commitment to managing your diabetes

Members of your diabetes care team — doctor or primary care provider, diabetes nurse educator, and dietitian, for example — can help you learn the basics of diabetes care and offer support along the way. But it's up to you to manage your condition.

Learn all you can about diabetes. Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Maintain a healthy weight. Monitor your blood sugar level, and follow your doctor's instructions for managing your blood sugar level. Ask your diabetes treatment team for help when you need it.

2. Don't smoke

Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications, including:

  • Reduced blood flow in the legs and feet, which can lead to infections, ulcers and possible removal of a body part by surgery (amputation)
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Eye disease, which can lead to blindness
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney disease

Talk to your doctor about ways to help you stop smoking or using other types of tobacco.

3. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control

Like diabetes, high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels. High cholesterol is a concern, too, since the damage is often worse and more rapid when you have diabetes. When these conditions team up, they can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other life-threatening conditions.

Eating a healthy, reduced-fat diet and exercising regularly can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol. Your doctor may also recommend taking prescription medication.

4. Schedule regular physicals and eye exams

Schedule two to three diabetes checkups a year, in addition to your yearly physical and routine eye exams.

During the physical, your doctor will ask about your nutrition and activity level and look for any diabetes-related complications — including signs of kidney damage, nerve damage and heart disease — as well as screen for other medical problems.

Your eye care specialist will check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.

5. Keep your vaccines up to date

High blood sugar can weaken your immune system, which makes routine vaccines more important than ever. Ask your doctor about:

  • Flu vaccine. A yearly flu vaccine can help you stay healthy during flu season as well as prevent serious complications from the flu.
  • Pneumonia vaccine. Sometimes the pneumonia vaccine requires only one shot. If you have diabetes complications or you're age 65 or older, you may need a five-year booster shot.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for adults with diabetes who haven't previously received the vaccine and are younger than 60. If you're age 60 or older and have never received the hepatitis B vaccine, talk to your doctor about whether it's right for you.
  • Other vaccines. Stay up to date with your tetanus shot. Your doctor may recommend other vaccines as well.
Dec. 18, 2014 See more In-depth