Preventing diabetes complications is like fighting a war with many fronts. Testing your blood sugar every day and making sure you have low hemoglobin A1C readings can help prevent many problems, such as kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, vision loss, and foot problems. But there's more to it than that.
Cardiovascular disease, the 800-pound gorilla of diabetes, is the number one cause of death in people with diabetes. Two in three people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke.
Being vigilant with your blood sugar may help. In a long-term study, researchers found that people with type 1 diabetes significantly lowered their risk of heart disease with tight blood sugar control, and experts believe people with type 2 may benefit as well.
However, blood-sugar vigilance may not be enough. To reduce your risk of heart attacks and stroke, you'll also need to keep an eye on blood pressure and cholesterol.
Good blood-sugar control also may help fight depressionthe other 800-pound gorilla for people with type 2 diabetes.
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Depressed patients are less likely to eat healthfully or stick to recommended guidelines for exercise, blood glucose monitoring, or medication use. A review of several dozen studies found a link between depression and poor control of blood sugar. One study in particular found an association between improved blood sugar control and a reduction in self-reported depression.
There are good treatments for depression, including antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and special classes geared toward patients with diabetes.
The key is seeking treatment if you feel depressed, because those who sink into the abyss of major depression have a greater risk of dying of diabetes-related complications than those who do not.