When we say cardiovascular diseases, we are using a collective term for various conditions that affect the heart and the blood vessels.
Studies show that when you have diabetes, be it Type 1 or Type 2, you’re more prone to develop cardiovascular diseases. CVDs are serious long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes because they could lead to fatal conditions like stroke and heart attack.
Cardiovascular diseases due to diabetes happen because, like the other organs we have discussed, our heart depends largely on blood supply. When our heart doesn’t receive enough blood, it’ll be oxygen-deprived. This deprivation could potentially lead to a heart attack (myocardial infarction).
A stroke happens similarly – only, the organ affected is our brain. Did you know that people with diabetes are 1.5 times more at risk of suffering from stroke than those who are not diabetic? This is why for someone who has diabetes, regular consultation with a doctor is important.
Finally, there’s diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA – one of the most dangerous long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes. DKA is considered a medical emergency and the person must be admitted to the ICU.
To explain DKA, we need to go over some of the basic concepts:
- Our cells primarily use glucose as energy, however, for us to be able to use it, we need insulin. Remember that most diabetics have insulin problems.
- Without insulin, the glucose will just remain in the blood and our cells wouldn’t have the energy it needs.
- This may prompt our body to use fats for energy instead.
- When we use fats for energy, our body releases the chemicals, ketones.
The problem in this scenario is that too many ketones could make the blood acidic in the condition we refer to diabetic ketoacidosis. This could lead to coma or even death.
Some of the symptoms of DKA that you need to watch out for are:
- Feeling really thirsty
- Urinating more than usual
- Signs of dehydration, like dry mouth
Please note that while DKA is more common with Type 1 diabetes, it could also happen to patients with Type 2 DM.
Other Physical Long-Term Effects of Uncontrolled Diabetes
Aside from the ones mentioned above, a person with poorly managed diabetes may also have compromised:
- Immune system, since high blood glucose interferes with the production of white blood cells
- Thyroid function, which could be overactive or under-active.
- Sexual function; men could experience impotence or erectile dysfunction.
Because there are a lot of long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes, monitoring and managing your blood glucose levels are important. Consult your doctor regularly and talk to them about the lifestyle changes you need to take to prevent these complications. Additionally, take note of your mental health. With all the various factors like the need for medications and restrictions in diet, you may experience stress and anxiety.
Learn more about Diabetes here.