More than 30 million Americans live with diabetes.
Diabetes throws plenty of curveballs all on its own. Unfortunately, many people who have diabetes aren’t contending with just one condition, but several. Diabetes comorbidities, or other health concerns that require ongoing care alongside diabetes, can make it more difficult for diabetics to manage their health.
Whether you have Type 2 diabetes or are simply at risk for the condition, preventing future comorbidities — and managing the ones you already have — is crucial for your long-term well-being.
What Is a Comorbidity?
Comorbidities aren’t specific to diabetes. A comorbidity occurs whenever someone has at least two illnesses at the same time or one after the other. For example, someone might have both arthritis and heart disease and have to treat both conditions.
High blood pressure
Chronic kidney disease
Comorbidities make treatment and disease management more complicated for patients and health care providers. People with multiple conditions may treat them with various different medications, some of which may interact negatively with each other. Comorbidities are also linked to worse health outcomes and higher health care costs, so it’s important to understand how other conditions can affect your care if you have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Why Managing Diabetes Comorbidities Matters
If you have a comorbidity, it’s important to work with your doctors and other health care providers to coordinate your care and prevent potential complications. Routine visits to the doctor are critical for getting your health conditions under control, setting health targets, connecting you with other health care providers like a dietitian and for establishing a comprehensive care plan.
And your work doesn’t stop when you leave an appointment. Follow your treatment plan to the letter and regularly communicate with your doctors about any changes you notice in your symptoms, especially if there have been changes in your care, such as new medications.
Your health care providers may also recommend certain lifestyle changes. You might hear advice from your doctor to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet, for example. These changes are the most difficult to make, but they often have the greatest impact on various comorbidities and diabetes risk factors.
Another part of being engaged in your own care is making sure you have the right coverage for your health care needs. Diabetes affects 20% of seniors, a group already more likely to have multiple chronic conditions. Especially if you fall into this category, being enrolled in a strong health plan will ensure that you have access to quality care until you qualify for Medicare at age 65.
As with any chronic condition, when diabetes enters the picture, your health is on the line. The secret to living well with this condition is to follow your doctor’s orders and to make long-term changes that prevent the disease from progressing. This is especially important if you have other diabetes comorbidities. Having multiple chronic conditions often entails costlier and more complex care and worse health outcomes, so it’s all the more important that you put your health in the best position possible.