If a patient is diagnosed with diabetes, diagnosed with prediabetes, or if he simply wants to reduce the risk of developing this diagnosis in the future, he probably already knows that it is important to control blood sugar levels. High glucose can affect health in various ways – it damages the heart and kidneys, negatively affects bone strength and joint function. In addition, fluctuations in glucose levels threaten the development of depression. Why is it important to control blood sugar? To put it as simple as possible, blood circulates in all tissues and affects all processes in the body. Experts identify six unexpected health effects of high blood sugar.
1. Cardiovascular Disease: A Link to Diabetes
Consider a simple situation: two people go to the doctor complaining of chest pain. In the past, one has already suffered a heart attack, the other has diabetes. Who is more likely to have a heart attack? Naturally, in a patient with diabetes. Doctors explain how diabetes affects coronary arteries and provokes damage to them. If the patient has diabetes, he also has coronary artery lesions, even if they have not yet been diagnosed.
Previously, experts believed that food cholesterol was the main culprit in arterial damage, but current studies show that excess blood sugar plays a more significant role.
Increased blood sugar increases the production of free radicals, highly reactive molecules that cause premature cell death and decrease the availability of nitric oxide. This compound is necessary to relax the blood vessels, which allows blood to flow freely, despite the accumulation of plaques. According to the International Diabetes Fund, heart disease is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes.
2. Sexual dysfunctions with high blood sugar
With high blood sugar, the same factors that reduce blood flow to the heart also worsen blood circulation in the genitals. According to experts, half of men with diabetes for 10 years also suffer from erectile dysfunction, and those with poorly controlled blood sugar levels are more prone to intimate problems compared to those with controlled blood glucose levels.
In women with chronically high blood sugar, intimate problems are also common. Possible side effects such as vaginal dryness, low sexual interest, and difficulty reaching an orgasm are the leading complaints of women with diabetes.
3. Decrease in cognitive abilities.
In recent years, some scientists have begun to call Alzheimer’s disease a kind of “brain diabetes.” Others consider it a special type of diabetes. In any case, the association of high blood sugar with a decrease in cognitive function is strong, regardless of the type of diabetes. For example, in a 2018 study published in the journal Diabetologia, 5,189 people were tracked for 10 years. It turned out that people with the highest blood sugar had the highest rate of cognitive decline.
Researchers cannot yet fully explain the sugar-brain relationship, but lowering blood flow is likely to play a role in brain problems.
4. Problems with bones and joints
Most people have heard of diabetic neuropathy, in which chronically high blood sugar damages nerve cells throughout the body. This leads to a feeling of numbness of the fingers and pain, paresthesia in the hands and fingers, feet and toes. But a lesser known fact: this nerve damage can also worsen the condition of the bones and joints of the body. Diabetic arthropathy (sore joints) can cause instability and deformities in the area of large joints, usually in the legs. Meanwhile, excessive levels of glucose in the blood can “sugar” the articular surfaces, destroy collagen and reduce mobility, making the joints stiff, swollen and painful.
5. Kidney Disease
An excess concentration of glucose in plasma affects the kidneys. By damaging the blood vessels in the kidneys, chronically high blood sugar can also reduce kidney function and contribute to kidney disease. The longer the patient has diabetes, the longer the periods of uncontrolled high plasma glucose levels, and the greater the risk of kidney disease. According to experts, approximately one third of people with diabetes have kidney kidneys, and most have severe processes with secondary complications.
The kidneys help balance fluid levels and remove waste products from the body and are thus vital to overall health. If the patient has type 2 diabetes or type 1 diabetes for more than five years, experts recommend checking kidney function every year. It is equally important to monitor the health of the entire urinary tract, patients with diabetes are more susceptible to secondary microbial inflammatory diseases of the genitourinary tract, which leads to even more pronounced kidney damage.
6. Depression in diabetics
Earlier, experts studying the problem of diabetes believed that depression is associated with the need for constant control of the disease and depends on certain restrictions in the usual life. It is these factors that supposedly increase the risk of depression in people with both types of diabetes. But new studies show that blood sugar can be a much more powerful depressant than existing health problems and the need to control lifestyle.
For example, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that for patients with type 1 diabetes, high blood sugar levels increase the level of the neurotransmitter associated with depression in the brain. The study also found that high sugar levels change the connections between brain regions that control emotions, potentially contributing to mental health problems. Thus, depression is largely dependent on glycemia, not life changes.