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Preventing Vascular Disease: Four Self-Care Tips for Diabetes

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Each year, the Amputee Coalition recognizes the month of April as Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month (LLAM) to honor its community and educate others about limb loss and limb difference.

According to a study, “Estimating the prevalence of limb loss in the United States: 2005 to 2050,” among those living with limb loss, the main causes are vascular disease (54 percent)–including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease–trauma (45 percent) and cancer (less than 2 percent).

1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year according to Diabetes.org. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to serious medical conditions such as vascular disease that could possibly result in limb loss.

Vascular disease includes any condition that affects your circulatory system. Vascular disease of your arteries, veins and lymph vessels can impact blood disorders that affect circulation. Vascular diseases include strokes, peripheral artery disease (PAD), abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), carotid artery disease (CAD) and more.

Below, the Division of Vascular Surgery & Endovascular Therapy share their expertise for those with diabetes to significantly reduce the risk of circulation issues and vascular disease.

1) Make eating a balanced diet a part of your routine. Get creative with tasty recipes that include healthy foods you enjoy. YouTube, cookbooks, and food blogs are the best ways to find recipes that fit your time, budget, and diet.

Fatty fish, leafy greens, Greek yogurt, fruit, and nuts are healthy foods to incorporate in your diet when managing diabetes. When you have a healthy balanced diet you significantly reduce your risk of exacerbating medical conditions. Talk to your doctor about creating a healthy eating plan that works for you.

2) Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can greatly improve your health. Choose an exercise that works for you. Take a walk outside or around your home using a pace that is comfortable for you. Exercising can even be accomplished while sitting down: try stretching your arms horizontally and moving them in circles a few times.

If you are not able to complete a full 30 minutes, do what you can. Over time you will build endurance. Goal setting is pivotal for exercise success. Try using “S.M.A.R.T. Goals” it is an acronym to remind you how to set a goal that maps out exactly what you need to do. These goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting realistic goals can help you along your fitness journey. You may want to play your favorite music station or invite a friend to help motivate you during your fitness activity.

Consult with your doctor about your exercise routine, they can help you make sure it is feasible and safe for your age and body type. Wear supportive and comfortable shoes while exercising. Inspect your feet for swelling blisters, cuts and sores daily. Paying close attention to your feet in addition to exercising and drinking enough water is essential while being active.

3) Refrain from smoking. Not only does smoking cause many diseases like cancer, and heart problems, according to the CDC, smoking increases your risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. If you are already diagnosed with diabetes it makes the disease harder to manage by increasing the chances of more complications.

If you are a smoker, be honest with your doctor. Get all the information and support you need to make the process a little easier. Doctors can connect you with resources to help you quit smoking. There are pharmacological options, such as nicotine replacement therapy gum, patches, lozenges, and medications that can help you refrain from smoking. There is also evidence-based behavioral interventions offered by mental health professionals for additional support. Refraining from smoking can be one of the best decisions you make to better your health.

4) One of the most important steps to managing diabetes is to track your blood sugar and blood pressure daily. Use a cell phone or notebook to write these numbers down daily along with the date. If you notice numbers that are out-of-range and atypical for you, visit your doctor immediately, as this can indicate a potential problem with your health.

When visiting your doctor be sure to take your blood pressure and blood sugar notes along with a list of your current medications. This allows the doctor to have all the pertinent information concerning your health. Healthy foods and exercise can improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Using the tips above can greatly reduce your chance of being diagnosed with diabetes or preventing the exacerbation of the disease. Exacerbation of diabetes can lead to serious vascular medical conditions that require limb preservation efforts or amputation.

Always talk to your doctor about any medical concerns you have. Seek support from family members, friends, and medical providers to help you get started on a healthier lifestyle. In addition, we encourage you to explore all options, including our UAB Limb Preservation Program, where an expert team of physicians is available to serve you.