If you have diabetes you may already be aware that it can have a serious impact on your health, but you may not realize just how wide reaching that impact can be.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or has become resistant to it. Anytime you eat, your body depends on insulin to take the glucose from the foods you eat and transfer it to your cells where it’s used for energy.
If your body does not have enough insulin, or your body has become resistant to the insulin it does have, glucose builds up in your bloodstream, leading to a range of complications.
Among the most talked about are the risks to your heart. Diabetes may quadruple your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and about 65 percent of diabetics die from one of these two conditions. That said, there are many other diabetes risks as well, including several that you may not be aware of.
Have You Heard of These 5 Serious Diabetes Risks?
One in 10 U.S. adults currently has diabetes, but if rates keep increasing as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts, that number could increase to one in three by 2050.
Needless to say, this is a condition that’s incredibly common and with commonality often comes a feeling of familiarity and acceptance… and at times a tendency to downplay or ignore the risks involved. This is why if you’re struggling with diabetes or even pre-diabetes, it’s so important to be aware of the steep risks involved, including those that are less publicized.
An analysis of data from 97 studies involving more than 820,000 people found that diabetes increases your risk of dying from cancer by 25 percent. Cancers of the liver, pancreas, ovary, colorectum, lung, bladder, and breast were all moderately associated with diabetes, the study found.
Diabetes not only impacts your body on a physical level — it can take a toll on your mental health as well. It’s estimated that up to one-quarter of people with diabetes also suffer from depression, a rate that’s nearly twice as high as it is among those without diabetes.
Feelings of anger, denial and depression are common after first being diagnosed. Diabetes also demands daily attention and lifestyle changes to keep it under control, and this can take a heavy psychological toll. On the flip side, depression may also make it more difficult for you to manage your diabetes properly, leading to poor glycemic control and an increased risk of diabetes complications.
3. Kidney Disease
Diabetes can damage your kidneys’ filtering system, making it difficult for them to remove waste from your blood. However, most diabetes patients are completely unaware that the condition may impact their kidneys, according to new research from the University of Bedfordshire in England.
In severe cases, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to kidney failure or irreversible kidney disease that requires dialysis or a kidney transplant. Diabetes is actually the leading cause of kidney failure in the United States.
By keeping your blood sugar levels in the healthy range, the risk of early kidney disease drops significantly and, as the American Diabetes Association states, the risk of severe kidney problems is cut in half.
4. Diabetic Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can damage the blood vessels that support your nerves, leading to diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage. Up to 56 percent of diabetics have never heard of diabetic neuropathy, even though the majority of diabetes patients experience it, a survey by the American Diabetes Association revealed.
Diabetic neuropathy can lead to tingling, numbness or pain, most often in your legs and feet but also in your hands and arms. In severe cases, the nerve damage can lead to muscle weakness and difficulty walking. It can also impact the nerves in your heart, bladder, lungs, stomach, intestines, eyes and sex organs, leading to related complications with those body regions.
5. Shortened Lifespan
Diabetes lowers life expectancy at every age. An analysis commissioned by the National Academy on Aging Society found that at age 50 diabetes lowers life expectancy by an average of 8.5 years. At age 60, over 5 years are shaved off your lifespan, and at age 90 lifespan is lowered by one year.
The shortened lifespan undoubtedly comes from the array of health complications associated with the disease. As the report revealed, those with diabetes are more likely to suffer from health problems including heart disease, depression and disabilities that interfere with daily life.
The secret to avoiding the health complications mentioned above is to keep your blood sugar well under control. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels will increase your risk of virtually every diabetes complication out there.
A knowledgeable health care practitioner can help guide you on how to control your blood sugar levels, and manage your diabetes, using lifestyle interventions along with identifying the unique underlying causes of your condition.
Be sure to remember that despite its commonality, diabetes is a very serious condition; it can cause debilitating complications and even kill you. So if you are diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, or you have risk factors for the disease, it’s important that you take it very seriously. But, you should also know that diabetes is not a death sentence… nor is it a “life sentence,” as the condition is often easily prevented, treated and ultimately reversed.
- American Heart Association, Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes Statistics
- New England Journal of Medicine March 3, 2011: 364(9):829-41
- Journal of Renal Care 2011 Mar;37(1):2-11.
- The Gerontological Society of America November 30, 2010