The number of people with diabetes mellitus is alarmingly increasing due to the growing prevalence of obesity, genetic susceptibility, urbanization, and ageing.One of the long term complication of diabetes is the injury to the arteries or vessels involving major organs in the body.It involves blockage of arteries of neck,arms,legs,feet,heart,brain and eyes and leads to complications like heart attack,stroke,diabetic foot and other vascular complications.
A conscious effort now can avoid any such complications which can occur in long run,as these are very well preventable and an awareness about it can help in improving quality of life and longevity.
How does diabetes affect the arteries or vessels?
Increased or uncontrolled blood sugar by complex mechanisms lead to build up of fatty deposits in the inner linings of the artery walls of the organs like legs, heart and brain, making them narrower,hindering blood flow and can even stop blood flow to the organ completely.
This condition can lead to stroke,heart attacks, pain especially when walking, as well as a number of other symptoms like foot wounds that are slow to heal(Diabetic foot ulcers), one foot being much colder than the other, or gangrene. In severe cases, foot or leg amputation may be needed.
What are the risks factors?
Individuals with diabetes are already at an increased risk for arterial/vascular complications. Following risk factors further increase the risks.
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
- Family history of cardiovascular disease, stroke or vascular disease
- Previous history of coronary artery disease (heart attack, angina, angioplasty or bypass surgery) or stroke
You can’t change your age or your family history, but taking care of your diabetes and the conditions that come with it can definitely lower your chances of developing these vascular complications.
Discuss with your doctor if you feel you have any of such complications or have these added risk factors.
How to prevent vascular complications?
A number of the risk factors mentioned here can be controlled to minimize the likelihood of developing vascular complications and to slow its progression. For people with diabetes, it’s especially important to keep blood glucose levels as normal as possible. Also, regular physical activity is important, and and medications need to be taken regularly.
Taking steps to reduce the risk of vascular diseases also helps reduce the chances of a heart attack, stroke or foot ulcers while enhancing quality of life.
Therefore you may wish to do the following:
- Keep active
- Eat a healthy diet and control your blood sugar levels
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- If you smoke, make an effort to quit
- Keep an eye on your blood pressure
- Be aware of any new conditions or changes in your body
- Have regular medical examinations, at least once a year
- Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor
Despite how prevalent diabetes is, it is an invisible disease – and it affects women and men, young and old, people of all races, shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, those with diabetes are also at risk for other health concerns, including vascular diseases. Prevention is the key to avoid these complications as age advances.
-Dr Prerna Gaur