Having diabetes can mean you are more likely to develop other health problems like heart disease and strokes. There are lots of other things that increase your chances of having these problems too, like smoking and high blood pressure - these are called risk factors because they increase your risk of developing a problem. The information below tells you how you can take steps to reduce some of these risk factors and so reduce your chances of developing other health problems.
Managing your blood glucose levels
One of the most important ways to manage your diabetes is to keep your blood glucose levels stable and well controlled. You can do this by eating the right foods, being active and by taking any tablets or insulin that you need. The better you can control your blood glucose levels the less likely you are to develop problems in the future. You may be asked to monitor your own blood glucose levels day to day and your doctor or nurse will also arrange for you to have a regular blood test to monitor your long-term blood glucose levels. This test is called glycated haemoglobin or HbA1c.
Managing high blood pressure
High blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of heart and circulation problems. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. However, you may not be aware of it because it often has no symptoms and you’re unlikely to feel unwell. It’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly so that if it does start to go up you can take steps to do something about it. You can lower blood pressure by leading a healthy lifestyle, by being active and eating healthily for example, but you may also need to take tablets.
Managing your cholesterol and triglycerides
There are two main kinds of fat in your blood – cholesterol and triglycerides – and high levels of both of these fats can increase your risk of heart disease and circulation problems. There are also two types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL. LDL is the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol which sticks to the walls of your blood vessels. HDL cholesterol is the ‘good’ kind of cholesterol which helps to prevent these fatty deposits building up. If you have low levels of HDL cholesterol in your body then this increases your risk of heart disease.
Your doctor can measure these fats in your blood and if they are not at the right levels then you will probably be asked to make some changes to the foods that you eat and to become more active. If this doesn’t improve the levels then your doctor may ask you to take medicines to help, the most common of which are called statins.