By the time you finish reading this article, you will want to avoid diabetes or pre-diabetes. If you are over age 50, you will especially need to avoid getting Type II or adult diabetes.
In 2015, there were an estimated 30.3 million in the US with diabetes, or 1 in 10 adults. That figure is an underestimation, as more than half of diabetes is undiagnosed. Your chance of getting diabetes increases with age such that once you reach age 65, that figure rises to 1 in 4.
In 2013, the southern and Appalachian regions of the United States had the highest prevalence of diagnosed diabetes (see Figure below).
And then there’s pre-diabetes. It is estimated that 1 of 3 adults has pre-diabetes, and 9 out of 10 of these are undiagnosed. If you are over 50, chances are that you are either pre-diabetic, or heading into it. And if you are over 50 and not on the low-glycemic diet, you are even more at increased risk.
You may be depressed if you have a diagnosis of diabetes, and you have good cause. You are twice as likely to die from any cause than someone your age who does not have it, and are twice as likely to be depressed than someone without the diagnosis. The morbidity and mortality of diabetes reflects that it is a chronic, autoimmune illness that results in damage to the nerves, blood vessels, heart, eyes, kidneys, and skin.
10 Complications of Diabetes
- Chronic Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of problems associated with the oxidative stress of high blood pressure, obesity, huge abdominal girth, heart attack (the #3 cause of death), stroke (1 in 20 deaths), blood clotting, high blood pressure, diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes (50% in the US), end-stage kidney disease, cancer, arthritis, polycystic ovaries, and diabetic retinopathy leading to blindness.
- Peripheral neuropathy: Patients can not feel their legs. The nerves are damaged, causing the loss of sensation to even a pinprick to both legs. Patients also complain of painful, restless legs at night, which may be alleviated by elevating the feet on two pillows. But the biggest problem is that if their shoes pinch their big toe, they don’t feel pain. Not feeling pain can be just as deadly as feeling too much pain.
- Leg infection and amputation: When patients can no longer feel their feet, sores, scabs, and oozing ulcers due to neuropathy, they just don’t even think about seeing a doctor because they have no pain. The ulcers can become infected, leading to even higher blood sugar, electrolyte disorders, acidosis, a medical emergency called diabetic ketoacidosis. It can progress to gangrene of the toes, feet and/or leg. Leg amputation may be necessary, and it is better to amputate below the knee and not above it, to save some quality of life with a prosthesis. Damage to blood vessels also causes poor wound healing. That is why patients are encouraged to inspect the soles of their feet with a hand-held mirror regularly, wear special anti-infection socks, and pay extra attention to their feet.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Damage to the small blood vessels of the eye’s retina leads to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy causes 2.6% of the world’s blindness.
- Erectile dysfunction: Men with diabetes report failure to get erections or ejaculate fluid. This is a sensitive and personal matter that profoundly affects quality of life. It may lead to depression, loss of relationships, and broken marriages.
- Silent Heart Attack: Neuropathy around the chest wall or thorax can lead to a “silent MI”, a heart attack without any pain and sudden death. Compared to the general population, patients with diabetes are at 2-3 times more at risk.
- Stroke: Compared to the general population, patients with diabetes are at 2-3 times more at risk of a stroke, also known as a cerebral vascular accident (CVA).
- End-stage kidney disease, kidney failure, dialysis, and kidney transplantation: Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure. In time, patients may need dialysis 3 times per week. It causes a big headache and fatigue for three of seven days a week, with loss of quality of life and depression. Immunosuppressive prescription steroids prevent rejection after kidney transplantation, but have significant complications: water retention, electrolyte imbalance, infections, poor wound healing, truncal obesity, and stomach ulcers. High potassium levels (hyperkalemia) can lead to sudden death.
- Sepsis, septic shock and death: Sepsis is a very severe inflammatory state diagnosed by looking at special blood samples drawn during fever spikes, to see if bacteria grow. The patient is commonly in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to support blood pressure and vital signs with intravenous drug infusion. One-third of people who get sepsis die. If the patient develops new kidney failure in the ICU, mortality is 50%. Being a septic shock survivor is difficult due to stress, kidney failure, chronic pain, fatigue, organ damage, and amputations from limbs that did not get perfused with enough blood supply.
- Death: The WHO estimates that about half the deaths due to high blood sugar occur before age 70, and by 2030, diabetes will be the 7th most common cause of death.
Now that you know these adverse outcomes associated high blood glucose or the diagnosis of adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, the good news is that it is possible to actually reverse it by achieving a normal body weight, the low-glycemic diet, an exercise regimen, avoiding obesity, and quitting cigarettes. Start by being practical.
Make a great decision today, and choose to eat and exercise yourself out of Type II diabetes, because it does happen. Many obese patients have persevered to lose more than 100 lbs, successfully stopping prescription medications for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol; many even go completely off insulin.
Talk to your doctor about more aggressive strategies you can personally achieve because you can succeed with encouragement, motivation, and inspiration to move onward and forward!
Because after all,
Your health is your wealth.
~ Margaret Aranda, MD
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