A diabetes diagnosis is hard enough to hear, so it can be easy to tune out when talk turns to comorbidities. Still, it’s good to know about the possible health issues that can come with diabetes, if just to be on the lookout for potential problems in your own health.
We’ve compiled four common comorbidities here:
Hypertension is simply high blood pressure, which is extremely common among people with diabetes. In fact, it’s estimated that between 20 percent and 60 percent of people with diabetes also have hypertension. Hypertension can lead to stroke, coronary artery disease, and neuropathy, among other issues. Often, hypertension is treated by drug therapy, but some people with hypertension might require a mix of behavioral therapy and drug therapy.
Cardiovascular disease includes heart valve problems, arrhythmia, heart attack, and stroke. It’s commonly caused by the buildup of plaque in blood vessels. Once plaque starts to build on artery walls, the normal flow of blood cells can become partially blocked, which slows down the overall flow of blood.
According to the National Diabetes Education Program cardiovascular disease is responsible for about 65% of early deaths in people with diabetes. The best ways to decrease the risk of being impacted by cardiovascular disease include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars, and drug therapy.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Apnea describes intermittent breathing; obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs during sleep and is commonly caused by a disruption in the open flow of air from the mouth to the lungs.
Anyone suffering from OSA is likely not getting enough sleep at night. As a response to improper breathing, the brain tells the body to move so that the interruptions in breathing cease, and this briefly forces the body to wake up. The lack of quality sleep can lead to a host of other physical issues over time. A majority of people with Type 2 diabetes who have hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea.
People experiencing OSA who are obese or overweight should consider changes in diet and activity level. Also, a mouthpiece or a continuous positive airways pressure machine may be necessary to help with airflow at night.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Chronic kidney disease is the gradual inability for the kidneys to properly filter blood. Those small vessels that transport the blood into and out of the kidneys are very sensitive and fragile; the building pressure caused by hypertension can easily damage or break the vessels. This means that the filtration process occurring between the blood vessels and kidneys doesn’t work properly. People with Type 2 diabetes are at high-risk of having this condition; almost 10 percent of people recently diagnosed with Type 2 show signs of kidney damage.
Because chronic kidney damage is usually caused by hypertension or diabetes, the most common solution is to treat the hypertension and make sure appropriate blood-sugar levels are maintained. In some instances where CKS has progressed, dialysis may be necessary.
If you have any concerns about your risk of these comorbidities, or if you feel you are exhibiting symptoms that may be signs of a comorbidity, talk with your medical provider.
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