High blood-sugar levels can damage nerves in the legs (neuropathy), which causes numbness in the feet. This can keep you from noticing cuts, bruises, and abnormal pressures on the foot—problems that can lead to ulcers or infection. Neuropathy can also make feet more prone to cracking, increasing infection risk. And diabetes can narrow arteries, impeding circulation and making it harder for wounds to heal. Get tips for caring for diabetic feet.
People with type 2 diabetes are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those without diabetes, and inactivity increases that risk. In a study of more than 15,000 Swedish people with type 2 diabetes, those who rarely exercised at the start of the study were 25 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke over a five-year period, and 70 percent more likely to die from one, compared with whose who were the most active. Get tips for exercising safely.
Despite the claims, there’s no convincing evidence that any supplement—including vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other compounds—will help control diabetes. Until more is known about their benefits and risks, stick with proven treatments. Read more about supplements for diabetes.
The obesity epidemic is a key reason the incidence of diabetes and prediabetes has been rising rapidly. Conversely, losing weight and keeping it off may actually reverse the disease, according to a small English study. Adults with type 2 diabetes stopped taking their medication and undertook a supervised weight loss program, losing 30 pounds on average. They then received counseling to help them keep the weight off. About a third of participants were diabetes-free at the end of the eight-month study.
All people with diabetes are at elevated risk for coronary artery disease, but for women the excess risk is twice as great as for men. So women with diabetes should pay special attention to their coronary risk factors, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, and physical inactivity, and make sure they get the medical treatment they need. All people with diabetes are now advised to take a cholesterol-lowering statin drug to reduce their risk of heart disease. (Studies show women are less likely than men to be prescribed statins and other heart-protective drugs.)
It’s true that fruit contains sugar, but it’s the naturally occurring kind (as opposed to added sugar), and fruit also supplies fiber and beneficial nutrients. In a Danish study of people newly diagnosed with diabetes, those who ate two pieces of fruit a day had similar weight loss and no deleterious effects on blood sugar compared with a group that was told to limit fruit. Read about foods that help fight diabetes.