Preventing Diabetes Mellitus Complications

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    Preventing Diabetes Mellitus Complications

    Preventing Diabetes Mellitus Complications

    You can help to prevent or slow down problems that are caused by diabetes (diabetes mellitus). If you follow your diabetes plan and take care of yourself, you can lower your chances of having severe problems.

    What actions can I take to prevent problems caused by diabetes?

    Managing your diabetes

    A person taking blood from a finger to check blood sugar levels.
    • Follow instructions from your health care providers about how to manage your diabetes. You may have a team of health care providers. They can teach you how to care for yourself and can answer any questions you have.
    • Learn about your condition. This can help you make healthy choices when it comes to eating and physical activity.
    • Know your target range for your blood sugar (glucose). Check your blood glucose levels. Your health care provider will help you decide how often to check your levels. How often you check may depend on your goals for treatment and how well you are meeting them.
    • Ask your health care provider if you should take a low dose of aspirin every day. Ask what dose is best for you. Taking a low dose of aspirin can help prevent heart disease.

    Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol

    A person checking their blood pressure.

    Your target blood pressure is based on:
    • Your age.
    • Your medicines.
    • How long you have had diabetes.
    • Other conditions you have.

    Controlling your cholesterol may:
    • Help prevent heart disease and stroke.
    • Improve your blood flow.

    To control your blood pressure and cholesterol:
    • Follow instructions from your health care provider about meal planning, exercise, and medicines.
    • Make sure your health care provider checks your blood pressure at every visit.
    • Monitor your blood pressure at home as told by your health care provider.
    • Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year.
    • A medicine called statin can help to lower your cholesterol. Ask your health care provider if you are or should be taking a statin.

    Medical appointments and vaccines

    Have yearly physical exams and eye exams. Your health care providers will tell you how often you need to see them. It may depend on your diabetes plan.
    • Every visit with a health care provider should include a measure of:
      • Your weight.
      • Your blood pressure.
      • Your blood glucose.
    • Your A1C level should be checked:
      • At least 2 times a year, if you are meeting your treatment goals.
      • 4 times a year, if you are not meeting treatment goals or if your goals have changed.
    • Your blood lipids (lipid profile) should be checked once a year. You should also be checked once a year for protein in your urine (urine microalbumin).
    • If you have type 1 diabetes, get an eye exam within 5 years after you are diagnosed. Get an exam once a year after that first exam.
    • If you have type 2 diabetes, get an eye exam as soon as you are diagnosed. Get an exam once a year after that first exam.

    Keep your vaccines current. You should get:
    • A flu vaccine every year.
    • A pneumonia vaccine and a hepatitis B vaccine. If you are 65 years or older, you may get the pneumonia vaccine as a series of two shots.

    Ask your health care provider what other vaccines you may need to get.

    Keep all follow-up visits. This can help ensure that problems can be avoided or found early and treated.


    • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
    • If you quit smoking, you may:
      • Lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, and kidney disease.
      • Help your blood move through your body better.
      • Help your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
    • Do not drink alcohol if:
      • Your health care provider tells you not to drink.
      • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.
    • If you drink alcohol:
      • Limit how much you have to:
        • 0–1 drink a day for women.
        • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
      • Know how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).

    Taking care of your feet

    A person sitting down using a handheld mirror to check the bottom of a foot.

    Diabetes may cause you to have poor blood flow to your legs and feet. It can also cause:
    • The skin on your feet to get thinner, break more easily, and heal more slowly.
    • Nerve damage in your legs and feet. This can result in less feeling. You may not notice small injuries. This could lead to bigger problems.

    To avoid foot problems:
    • Check your skin and feet every day for cuts, bruises, redness, blisters, or sores.
    • Have a foot exam with your health care provider once a year. During the exam, your health care provider will:
      • Look at the structure and skin of your feet.
      • Check your pulses and amount of feeling in your feet.
    • Make sure that your health care provider does a visual foot exam at every visit.

    Taking care of your teeth

    People who have diabetes that is not controlled well are more likely to have gum disease (periodontal disease). Diabetes can make gum disease harder to control. If not treated, it can lead to tooth loss. To prevent this:
    • Brush your teeth twice a day.
    • Floss at least once a day.
    • Visit your dentist 2 times a year.

    Managing stress

    Living with diabetes can be stressful. When you are stressed, you may:
    • Have higher blood glucose because of stress hormones.
    • Be distracted from taking good care of yourself.

    Be aware of your stress level and make changes to help you manage tough times. To lower your stress levels:
    • Think about joining a support group.
    • Do planned relaxation or meditation.
    • Do a hobby that you enjoy.
    • Maintain healthy relationships.
    • Try to exercise every day.
    • Work with your health care provider or a mental health professional.

    Where to find more information

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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