Chances are, if you’re like most people, you’d think that the only danger associated with diabetes is elevated levels of blood glucose – and that everything is fine so long as blood sugar levels are managed. Unfortunately, that’s where you’re mistaken: yes, your blood glucose level is a good indicator of how well you’re controlling diabetes. But it fails to tell the full story.
Due to diabetes’ widespread impact on the body (including the cardiovascular, nervous, and urinary system), it can lead to a slew of undetectable, ‘invisible’ health issues. What, precisely, though? Find out below.
Hidden danger #1: High blood pressure & cholesterol
Most people with diabetes have too much LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and harmful blood fats (known as triglycerides) and too little HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. This can cause inflammation of the blood vessels. In turn, inflamed blood vessels can trap cholesterol and form plaque – making arteries stiffer and narrower. This phenomenon is known as atherosclerosis, which lowers blood flow and significantly increases blood pressure.
And this explains why 73.6% of individuals with diabetes also have hypertension, which can lead to several health complications, including heart attack, stroke, and vision loss. Worryingly, high blood pressure typically presents no signs or symptoms, even when blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. This is why you must stay on top of your lipids and blood pressure readings.
Hidden danger #2: Increased susceptibility to infections
Typically, your immune system can protect your body from invasion by millions of harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, and parasites in the environment. Unfortunately, diabetes disrupts your immune system by impairing white blood cells’ ability to kill microorganisms. Worse still, because of the narrowing of blood vessels associated with the condition, areas of infection may receive a poor blood supply, further weakening your immune system defenses (your white blood cells can’t get to where they need to fight off germs).
Thus, when you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk of developing life-threatening complications – including multi-organ failure – from common infections, such as influenza (i.e. flu) and pneumonia. Luckily, you’re not entirely helpless. Multiple studies have shown that regular, daily exercise can help strengthen your immune system. Beyond that, physical activity can also enhance your body’s sensitivity to insulin, potentially contributing to lower and more stable blood sugar levels over time.
Hidden danger #3: Accidental insulin overdose
Determining the correct dosage of insulin can seem like rocket science sometimes; it depends on many factors, like your fasting/premeal blood sugar level, meal’s carbohydrate content, insulin sensitivity, and target post-meal blood sugar goals, amongst others. With all these to account for, it’s not difficult to see why you might accidentally overdose on insulin.
And that’s a scary prospect because dangerously low glucose levels in your blood (i.e. hypoglycemia) can cause severe symptoms like seizures, unconsciousness, and even death. That’s why it’s essential to be extra careful when working out the amount of insulin required to offset your intended carbohydrate intake. Missing out on any one factor that’ll affect how your body processes the insulin will lead to suboptimal glucose control – or, worse, fatal overdose.
Diabetes:M makes staying clear of diabetes’ hidden dangers easy
Managing all the different aspects of diabetes can be overwhelming. You can feel like you’re navigating across a minefield, never sure when a hidden danger is going to blow you up. This is where Diabetes:M – an award-winning diabetes logbook app – comes in. Developed by people with diabetes, for diabetics, the app allows you to track and manage all aspects of your condition, including blood pressure, physical activity, microalbumin, plus various other crucial health indicators.
Better yet, Diabetes:M offers ‘Bolus Advisor,’ an accurate carbohydrates-counting and insulin dose calculator. Worried that you won’t be able to find your favorite foods on the database? You don’t have to. Manually add custom foods/meals for calculation, save it, and Diabetes:M will do the rest. To top it all off: any time you’re worried about something looking off in your readings/logs, export your data and share it with your primary doctor. This provides him/her with a comprehensive report on your collected data – better enabling your doctor to manage your condition.
Having witnessed first-hand the debilitating effects uncontrolled diabetes can have on family members, Gene Lim is passionate about using the knowledge she has on the chronic condition to help people with diabetes learn how to best take care of their health while living a full, vibrant life.