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Women & Diabetes: It's Complicated

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Women and Diabetes: It's Complicated

One thing that makes diabetes such a challenging disease is that it complicates other health issues. As always, the first step in the battle is to arm yourself with as much information as possible. The more you know, the better your chances of living a healthier life.

Diabetes and Cholesterol

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that a majority of people with diabetes have dyslipidemia; that is, unhealthy levels of one or more lipids (fat) in your blood. Maintaining normal cholesterol levels will help prevent circulation problems—an issue for people with diabetes. Regularly have your cholesterol checked, including total cholesterol, LDL ("bad" cholesterol), and HDL ("good" cholesterol).

Diabetes and blood sugar management

Higher-than-normal blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, contribute to high blood pressure, and lead to abnormal lipid levels. If you have diabetes, a diabetes educator can help you learn how to manage your blood sugar levels with healthy eating choices, weight loss (if necessary), medication, and exercise. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by body cells. It also strengthens the heart and lungs, which can decrease blood pressure and promote weight loss.

Diabetes and blood pressure

Studies have shown that people with both diabetes and high blood pressure have double the risk for cardiovascular disease as non-diabetics who have high blood pressure. A large national survey found that a majority of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. The goal of treatment for diabetics is blood pressure less than 130/80. Unfortunately, that same survey found there were a large number of diabetics who were unaware of their diabetes and still more who were untreated or whose treatments were not keeping their blood pressure at a healthy level. Only a small number of the diabetics in the survey reported having a blood pressure less than 130/85—a number that was still too high.

Diabetes and smoking

According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking is a significant factor in the development of Type 2 diabetes. And the more you smoke, the higher your risk of diabetes. Smoking also complicates the treatment of diabetes. If you have diabetes and you smoke, you're at a significantly higher risk of developing heart and kidney disease, poor blood flow (which can lead to infections, ulcers, and possible amputation), retinopathy, peripheral neuropathy, and other complicating factors.

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