Complications secondary to diabetes can be devastating. The good news is that you can make a big impact on preventing those complications by doing three things: reduce your hemoglobin A1c (Hgb A1c) level, reduce body weight and increase exercise.
Long-term diabetes complications are directly correlated to elevated blood glucose levels. Ideally, your diabetes managing physician would typically like to have your Hgb A1c level below 7 percent, corresponding to a glucose level of 150 mg/dl. A normal glucose level is considered to be 124 mg/dl.
With a sustained glucose level of 180 mg/dl or higher, corresponding to Hgb A1c of 8 percent or higher, four things may be permanently damaged: your eyes (leading to blindness), your feet (leading to amputation), your heart (leading to heart attack) and your kidneys (leading to kidney failure and eventual dialysis).
Research has shown that by decreasing your Hgb A1c level by only 1 percent — for instance, from 9 percent to 8 percent — will decrease your risk for diabetic retinopathy (eye disease) by 37 percent; decrease amputation rates by 43 percent; decrease risks for heart attack by 14 percent; and decrease risks for stroke by 12 percent.
Your body weight also directly affects your risks for developing diabetic complications, regardless of race or ethnicity. Reducing your body weight by 5 to 7 percent will reduce your risks for complications by 25 percent. If you weigh 200 pounds and you lose 10 pounds, you can significantly reduce the risk of complications.
Finally, exercise is a key to preventing complications. The American Diabetes Association Consensus Statement regarding exercise is fairly simple: 150 minutes of mild to moderate exercise weekly. That means walking around your neighborhood for 30 minutes, five times per week, will make a large impact on your cardiovascular system. That in turn will help with glucose control and weight loss.