Diabetes type 2: Dr Zoe Williams discusses high blood sugar risks
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Type 2 diabetes stems from a dysfunction in the way the body processes the hormone insulin. One of the most important roles insulin performs in the body is regulating blood sugar – the main type of sugar you get from food. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage the body in numerous ways, many of which can show up in your feet.
Consistently high blood sugar levels can cause neuropathy – the medical term for nerve damage – in the feet.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), neuropathy in the feet “increases the chance of foot ulcers, infection and eventual need for limb amputation.”
According to Diabetes UK, consistently high blood sugar levels can also affect your circulation, which can lead to you getting less blood supply to your feet.
“Without a good blood supply you may have problems with cuts and sores healing,” warns the health body.
It adds: “You may also get cramps and pain in your legs or feet.”
How to reduce your risk of serious foot problems
“The risk of complications can be greatly reduced if you’re able to bring your blood sugar levels under control,” said foot specialist Mike O’Neill in an article published on the NHS website.
“Ensure that your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are also monitored and controlled with medication if needed.”
According to the NHS, you should have your feet checked as part of your annual diabetes review.
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You may be eligible for an NHS podiatrist if you have diabetes and symptoms affecting your feet such as numbness.
“Ask your GP for a referral or find a local podiatrist,” advises the NHS.
The health body also says to:
- Keep your feet clean and free from infection.
- Wear shoes that fit well and don’t squeeze or rub. Ill-fitting shoes can cause corns and calluses, ulcers and nail problems.
- Never walk barefoot, especially in the garden or on the beach on holidays, to avoid cuts and try to avoid sitting with your legs crossed so you don’t constrict your blood circulation.
- Cut or file your toenails regularly.
- Get corns or hard skin treated by a podiatrist.
- Stop smoking to protect your feet.
General tips for lowering high blood sugar
A healthy diet and keeping active will help you manage your blood sugar level.
There’s nothing you cannot eat if you have type 2 diabetes, but you’ll have to limit certain foods.
That’s because certain foods are broken down into blood glucose (sugar) faster than others.
The worst culprits are carbohydrates that rank high on the glycaemic index (GI) – a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates.
It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own.
High GI foods include sugar and sugary foods, sugary soft drinks and white bread.
Low or medium GI foods are broken down more slowly and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels over time.
- Some fruit and vegetables
- Wholegrain foods, such as porridge oats.
As the NHS points out, some low GI foods, such as wholegrain foods, fruit, vegetables, beans and lentils, are foods we should eat as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
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