As we’ve discussed before in our Blogs on Diabetes, prevention is by far the best option patients have in protecting themselves from diabetic foot complications. The nature of the disease predisposes patients to decreased neurovascular signs (decreased blood flow and decreased sensation) in the small vessels and nerves, leading to a failure to recognize a problem and long-term healing difficulties. Through daily management, many of the complications of Diabetes in the lower extremity can be prevented and/or minimized. These 5 daily “Do’s” will help decrease your risk and increase your quality of life in managing Diabetes.
1. Proper Nutrition and Exercise: Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine (30 minutes 3 times per week) not only makes you feel good, but also keeps your weight down, and ensures that you are taking in all the necessary nutrients to increase your chance of healing, should you suffer a diabetic foot wound.
2. Monitor your blood glucose levels daily: It is important to maintain your blood glucose levels within a healthy range to prevent complications of Diabetes. You want to ensure that your pre-meal glucose levels are between 90-130 mg/dl and your post-meal glucose levels are less than 180 mg/dl. Any value above 180 mg/dL significantly mutes your bodies own immune response to infection.
3. Be vigilant: Taking medications prescribed by your doctors is important in controlling your co-morbidities, which may have a tendency to increase your diabetic complication risks. By maintaining your cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels through prescription medications, diet and exercise, you can decrease your risk of ulceration and future complications related to Diabetes.
4. Check your feet daily: You are your best resource for catching early signs of skin breakdown, ulceration, and infection. The earlier you detect areas of concern and make an appointment with your Podiatrist, the faster you will receive treatment and the less likely you are to increase your risk of associated complications. Make sure you are never walking around the house without supportive shoes, you are washing all areas of your feet, including in between your toes, and drying those same areas thoroughly. Do not soak your feet in warm or hot baths and do not attempt to perform “bathroom surgery” for trimming of corns, calluses or nails. Leave the trimming and nail care to your Podiatrist. If you fail to check your feet daily, you become your own risk factor for a development of future problems!
5. Quit smoking: Smoking has a tendency to increase your heart rate and your blood pressure, while decreasing the amount of oxygen traveling with your blood cells to your extremities. The decreased flow of oxygen to your extremities decreases healing and increases your risk of complications should ulceration arise.
Following up with both your Podiatrist and your Primary Care Physician on a regular basis is important for keeping track of both your diabetes management and risk factors for complications, however you must be your own advocate. Taking 5! daily can significantly improve your long-term health and diabetes management.