Are You at Risk for Diabetic Neuropathy? continued...
3. You're Overweight.
The risk: Being overweight is double trouble for people with diabetes. It puts you at higher risk of diabetic nerve damage -- and higher risk of deadly diabetes complications like heart attack and stroke.
What you can do: Losing weight is hard for everyone, since meals are loaded with emotional meaning, well-being, satisfaction -- or frustration. So if you're overweight, be patient -- but consistent -- with yourself. Losing even a few extra pounds can be a big boost to your health, says the ADA. You really can control this risk with a balanced diet and exercise plan designed for slow, safe weight loss. And losing weight means less pressure on those tender feet if you already have diabetic nerve pain.
4. You're Off-Target With Your Blood Fats.
The risk: The wrong levels of fats in your blood put you at higher risk of diabetic neuropathy. Often, people with diabetes have too-high levels of the blood fat called triglycerides, says the ADA. To make matters worse, an elevated LDL ("bad cholesterol") can increase the risk of a heart attack. A grim truth: 65% of deaths in people with diabetes will be due to a heart attack or stroke, according the ADA.
What you can do: Find out your numbers, if you're not sure. Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Most people with diabetes aim for these target levels, says the ADA:
LDL cholesterol: below 100 mg/dL HDL cholesterol: above 40 mg/dL for men above 50 mg/dL for women Triglycerides: below 150 mg/dL
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines; check with your doctor to see if your target levels are different, given your medical condition.
5. You Smoke.
The risk: Smokers are at greater risk of nerve damage from diabetes. And as you no doubt know, smoking has been linked to heart disease for years.
What you can do: You really can quit, even if you've been a longtime smoker. And it's never too late: Even if you've smoked for years, you'll do yourself a world a good if you quit. These days, you'll find smoking cessation classes, groups, and resources everywhere. Set a quit date, commit yourself, and ask your friends, family, colleagues, and your doctor for support.
6. You Drink a Lot of Alcohol.
The risk: Alcohol can seriously affect blood sugar levels. Even more sobering? Alcohol can raise your level of unhealthy blood fats called triglycerides.
What you can do: The ADA and NDIC both advise cutting down on drinking to help prevent -- or at least try to control -- diabetic nerve damage. If you already have nerve pain, ask your doctor whether you should have any alcohol at all. If you're living with diabetes, you may decide to cut out drinking entirely. The ADA suggests no more than 2 drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
So, quick review: Your blood sugar, weight, blood fats like triglycerides, smoking, and drinking. That's five risk factors for diabetic neuropathy that are under your control. Not bad. Now if medicine can just come up with a "cure" for aging ...