If I ignore the pre-diabetes, how could diabetes reduce the quality or length of my life?
The effect that diabetes has on the body happens slowly, and can often progress without notice. Over time, though, having too much glucose (sugar) in the blood can damage a number of organs. These are often referred to as “complications” of diabetes.
The following is a list of problems that may be avoidable by doing everything you can to lower your risks while you’re still in the pre-diabetes stage.
Heart and blood vessel damage
Type 2 diabetes can lead to problems like chest pain, heart attack, stroke, narrowed arteries and high blood pressure.
In the hands and feet, nerve damage may cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the fingers or toes and spreads upwards. Damage to nerves that control digestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. In men, some nerve damage may cause erectile dysfunction.
Your kidneys filter toxins from your blood. Over time, diabetes can damage them so they no longer work effectively, requiring either dialysis or a transplant.
Damage to the blood vessels in the eye can eventually lead to blindness as well as increase the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
Poor circulation, damage to the immune system and problems with the nerves in the feet can make it more difficult to heal from even minor cuts and blisters. These seemingly small skin wounds can develop serious infections and sometimes even result in amputation.
Skin and mouth conditions
Diabetes may increase the risk of skin infections as well as dental and gum disease.
Untreated diabetes may lower your bone density over time, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Poor blood sugar control appears to have some effect on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The reasons why are still being investigated, but we know that the brain cells are fueled by glucose and when the cells cannot access the fuel supply they need, the brain cells may become damaged.
Although the list of diabetes-related problems is lengthy, it is important to realize these problems primarily occur when diabetes is left untreated. By adopting a healthy lifestyle and treating all related conditions, most people with diabetes can postpone these problems or avoid them all together.
How is pre-diabetes related to heart health?
More research is needed to learn more about how pre-diabetes is related to heart health. People who go on to develop type 2 diabetes are also much more likely to experience heart disease, stroke, hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions. The good news is that steps taken to prevent diabetes are the same steps to prevent heart disease. When you treat one of them, you treat them all.