Last time I wrote about the short term benefits of having good management of your blood glucose levels. It was intended to be a more light-hearted post as diabetes can be overwhelming and serious and I wanted to get my personality in there a little bit to try and soften the blow, so to speak.
However, it seems wrong to do it in this post. Because the long-term complications of diabetes can be very scary – some of them certainly put me in a somber mood.
The short-term benefits are easy to recognise and explain in real terms. The advantages of keeping those blood levels in check can be felt within a few hours in some cases.
Yet in a world where immediate gratification seems to be on everyone’s mind asking someone, especially someone who is younger, to think about the consequences of their actions in 20 or 30 years time is extremely difficult and without complete knowledge of the ramifications of some actions – how would they know?
I can do/ get/ obtain the majority of what I would like/ want at the touch of a button from my phone. It’s all right there and that’s the world we live in. Patience is a lost trait. It takes real effort to think about my future and my health when I’m 50, 60, 70 or longer if I’m lucky.
However, as diabetics – that trait is key if you want to live a good healthy life into your older years.
What’s frustrating to me is that I had to find these out for myself. My specialists or GP never really explained the long term complications to me and some of these are really serious and I feel that it would be wrong of me to try and lighten the tone of it.
So – what are some of the longer-term benefits to keeping those blood sugar levels in check?
1) A Healthy Heart:
Heart disease is one of the top complications when it comes to diabetes – ultimately being the cause of death for many. The probability of developing complications increases by 2-4 times and 5 times for likely to die from heart disease compared to those without diabetes. Excess sugar in your blood can increase cholesterol levels which can eventually lead to blood clots and restrict flow to vital organs like the heart. Keeping those sugars under control reduces the risk dramatically.
2) Good Eyesight:
If you’re diabetic you should be getting your eyes tested at least once per year. The reason for this? Very small blood vessels called capillaries provide the retina in your eye with oxygen and nutrients. These capillaries are extremely small and very fragile and elevated sugar levels damage them and stop light from reaching the retina. This is otherwise known as diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness from adults aged 20-74 and conditions known as glaucoma, cataracts and corneal disease can also be common. Keeping those sugars in good range will also dramatically reduce the risk of developing eye health complications.
3) Strong Kidneys:
Diabetes is the number 1 cause of kidney failure. High blood sugar damages those capillaries as discussed above and in turn effects the filters within the kidneys. Kidney health is extremely vital so keeping those sugar levels in range improves the chances of not developing complications.
4) Better Mental Health:
This one is the scary one for me above all else. Damaged blood cells caused by an uncontrolled level of sugar in the bloodstream is believed to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. For those of you who don’t know what this disease is – it’s a progressive and fatal disease that destroys brain cells thus causing issues with memory, thinking and behaviour.
Depression is also three times more common in adults that have diabetes than those without. The root cause of depression is still not exactly known but it is believed that a combination of stress, elevated blood sugars in the fluid around the brain and a general feeling of helplessness when complications occur could contribute to the development of depression.
So. There you have it.
These are some of the major complications that can effect us as diabetics. There are others – like foot and joint health, effecting blood circulation and a greater sense of physical pain. The good news is that keeping good control of your blood sugar levels can dramatically reduce your chances of developing these nasty complications.