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Targeted Health Concerns with Diabetes

Wednesday 14 February 2024
7 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Diabetes and Travel

II. Aging and Diabetes

III. Diabetes and Kidney Health

IV. Diabetes and Heart Health

V. Diabetes and Neuropathy

VI. Eye Care and Diabetes

VII. Conclusion

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, you know that it’s a full-time responsibility that requires diligent attention and care. Living with diabetes presents a unique set of challenges that extend beyond managing blood sugar levels.

In this article, we'll explore some of the health issues that often come with diabetes. These include challenges around travel, aging, kidney health, vision, and heart disease.

Diabetes and Travel

If you live with diabetes, travel doesn't have to be complicated - with thoughtful preparation, you can have a fun, stress-free trip. The key is planning and packing strategically.

  • Plan: Before your trip, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your medication schedule and dosages to account for time zone changes and changes to your routine.
  • Pack extra supplies: Always pack more diabetes supplies than you need. This includes medications, syringes, needles, and insulin pens. If you're traveling west, remember that your travel day will be longer, potentially leading to a time change of more than two hours. In these cases, you may require additional units of short-acting insulin and extra food to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  • Carry a Medical ID: Wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace that identifies you as a person with diabetes can help you avoid potential problems carrying syringes and needles in some countries.
  • Insulin storage: To keep insulin effective, take steps to regulate temperatures. If traveling somewhere hot, use an insulated cooling bag. In cold climates, keep insulin close to your body heat. 
  • Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels: Traveling can disrupt your routine, impacting your blood sugar levels. Monitoring your sugar levels regularly and adjusting medications as needed is vital. Be mindful of your activity level and any dietary changes you may encounter during your journey. [1]

Aging and Diabetes

Elderly lady with insulin pen

One of the key factors to consider when managing diabetes as an older adult is the presence of co-existing conditions. As we age, it is common to develop other health issues alongside diabetes, such as cognitive decline or heart disease. These additional conditions can complicate diabetes self-care and education. The good news is that with the support of your healthcare team, managing diabetes later in life is achievable. [2]

Your care team, which may include your primary doctor, geriatrician, diabetes educator, endocrinologist, nutritionist, and social worker, will tailor your care plan to your unique needs. [2]

  • At Home Support: They can arrange transportation, meal delivery, home health aides, and other help to ensure you stay safe and self-sufficient. 
  • Medication Management: Multiple prescriptions can be confusing. Your care team reviews all medications to ensure they work well and avoid interactions. 
  • Fall Prevention: Unsteady blood sugars or vision changes may increase fall risk. Your team can recommend home modifications and assistive devices.
  • Access to Care: Your team will work with you to find affordable medications, supplies, and healthy foods. Home delivery or transportation assistance can also be arranged. [2]

With personalized care and support, you can continue to thrive with diabetes well into your golden years. Your healthcare team is there to listen, understand your needs, and develop a senior-friendly diabetes plan just for you. 

Diabetes and Kidney Health

For people living with diabetes, keeping your kidneys healthy is a top priority. The kidneys act as filters for the body, removing waste and excess fluid from the bloodstream. But over time, high blood sugar levels can injure the tiny blood vessels and nephrons in the kidneys, reducing their ability to do their job. The good news is that you can prevent or slow down kidney damage with diligent self-care. [3]

  • Control your blood sugar levels: Getting your A1C checked regularly helps you and your doctor monitor your average blood sugar over the previous three months. If your A1C starts creeping up, your doctor may adjust your treatment plan. 
  • Monitor your blood pressure: High blood pressure is another risk factor for kidney disease. Aim to keep your readings below 140/90 mmHg. Medication can help lower blood pressure if lifestyle changes alone don't do the trick.
  • Get tested regularly: Kidney function tests like urine albumin and GFR tests check how well your kidneys are filtering and can detect any issues early on. Catching problems early is critical to managing diabetes-related kidney damage.
  • Make lifestyle changes: Follow a balanced diet, exercise regularly, limit alcohol consumption, and quit smoking. All these steps will help keep your blood sugar in a safe range and lower your risk of kidney disease.
  • Take medications as directed by your doctor: Stick with your prescribed dosage and timing. [3]

The bottom line is that with proper self-management, you can maintain healthy kidneys for years. Monitoring your health, making smart lifestyle choices, and working closely with your healthcare providers will go a long way in preserving your kidney function. 

Diabetes and Heart Health

vegetables and fruits grouped together. Spices in heart shaped bowls

If you have diabetes, you’re twice as likely to have heart disease or stroke. But with the right strategies, you can take control of your heart health. By making some simple lifestyle changes and working closely with your healthcare team, you can reduce the risk factors associated with heart disease. Here are some strategies to help you prevent and manage heart disease if you have diabetes. [4]

  • Keep your blood sugar levels in check: High blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves that control your heart over time. Therefore, it's crucial to monitor and manage your blood sugar levels consistently. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet: Focus on eating a balanced, nutritious diet. Choose fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit sugary and processed options, which can spike blood sugar and promote heart disease. 
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Aim for at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise. Regular physical activity makes your body more sensitive to insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels. 
  • Control blood pressure and cholesterol levels: High blood pressure and cholesterol are common risks for heart disease. Work with your doctor to check your levels often and follow their recommendations to keep them in a healthy range. [4]

Diabetes and Neuropathy

If you have diabetes, nerve damage (or neuropathy) is a common complication to watch for. The problem starts when high blood sugar injures the tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the nerves. This impairs nerve function and leads to abnormal sensations like tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the hands and feet. [5]

If you have diabetes, there are key steps you can take to prevent and manage neuropathy:

  • Work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your blood sugars through healthy eating, physical activity, medication, and regular testing. Getting your levels into a healthy range is key for nerve health. 
  • Get regular foot exams and vision checks to catch problems early. Neuropathy can cause foot injuries and eye disease if not managed.
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle habits to support nerve health through improved circulation. Activities like walking, stretching, and strength training are beneficial. [5]

In addition to taking preventative measures, seeing your doctor promptly if you experience the following is important. Early detection can support successful treatment.

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in urination or digestion
  • An infected cut or sore on your foot that won’t heal
  • Burning, tingling, pain, or weakness in your hands or feet [5]

Eye Care and Diabetes

optometrist examining elderly man’s eyes

Diabetes can have a profound impact on your eyesight if left unmanaged. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to a condition known as diabetic retinopathy. This condition is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. [6]

Prevention is key when it comes to diabetic eye complications. Alongside regular eye exams, follow the ACDEs to reduce the risk of eye damage with diabetes.

A – Aim for an A1C of 7% (or the target set by your healthcare provider).

B – Control your blood pressure to less than 130/80 mmHg (or the target set by your doctor)

C – Reduce LDL cholesterol to less than 2 mmol/L

D – Take prescribed drugs

E – Engage in regular exercise to maintain a healthy body weight

S – Stop smoking [6]


Remember, you are the most important member of your diabetes care team. Your needs and preferences should drive all treatment decisions. If any recommendations don't feel quite right, speak up. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to diabetes. You can find a management routine that suits your lifestyle and health status with patience and good communication.

To learn more about type 2 diabetes, visit our dedicated diabetes blog for more topics.

The content provided in this article is based on thorough research and in some cases, reviewed by a medical professional. Our goal for the information is to provide helpful, general health informational. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.