Diabetes comes with a long list of complications that affect so many parts of your body — your brain, your heart, your eyes, your feet, your skin, your kidneys.
These complications don’t happen to everyone with diabetes. But the longer you have the disease and the worse your blood sugar control is, the more likely you are to eventually develop one (or more) of them.
Why does diabetes impact so many different organs and systems in your body?
Because the excess sugar in your blood can damage your body in a multitude of ways. It can damage the walls of tiny blood vessels known as capillaries that supply blood to your nerves, particularly in your legs, and lead to nerve damage. It can damage the filtering system in your kidneys that removes waste from your blood, eventually triggering kidney failure. It can damage the blood vessels in your retina, causing vision problems or even blindness. And now a new study shows this damage can extend to your bones as well…
This study found that people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing serious bone fractures that threaten their independence and mobility.
Diabetes puts you at risk for hip and other debilitating fractures
Researchers from the University of Sheffield just dove into the bone health repercussions of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and it’s not a pretty picture…
In the study, researchers reviewed health records from previous studies and determined that people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing hip and non-vertebral fractures (fractures that don’t impact the spine or skull).
Like other diabetes complications, researchers found that the risk of bone fractures was higher for people who had the disease longer and those whose blood sugar control was worse. The risk was also higher for those with type 1 diabetes versus those with type 2 diabetes. But people with type 2 diabetes who used insulin had a higher risk too.
Even though bone fractures aren’t on most people’s radar as a possible diabetes complication, this isn’t the first study to show people with diabetes have a higher fracture risk. In fact, a 2014 study found that people with diabetes are as much as three times as likely to get a bone fracture as people without diabetes.
As you probably know, fractures can be serious — especially if you’re older. Hip fractures, in particular, are known to cause disability in older people and even increase the risk of dying within a year of the injury.
“Diabetes can cause a number of well-known complications including kidney problems, loss of eyesight, problems with your feet and nerve damage. However, until now many people with diabetes and their doctors are unaware that they are also at greater risk of bone fractures,” said lead researcher Dr. Tatiane Vilaca.
How to improve blood sugar and prevent fractures
So, how do you protect your bones if you have diabetes?
First, you have to do everything in your power to get your blood sugar under control. For many people with diabetes, that means using diabetes medication, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. What should you eat specifically?
A lot of different diets have proven beneficial to people with diabetes, but whatever eating plan you choose, make sure it includes plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy proteins. And steer clear of processed food, refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks. The Mediterranean diet is a great example of a sensible diet that can help people with diabetes get their blood sugar under control.
Next, you may have your doctor check your vitamin D levels. Why? According to McMaster’s University, many people with diabetes are low in vitamin D. And not only is vitamin D known to help regulate insulin levels, we already know it helps promote bone health.
Beyond getting your blood sugar under control, you’ll also want to reduce your risk of falls… because if you don’t fall, you don’t fracture.
Yoga, Pilates and tai chi are beneficial forms of exercise that improve your balance, which reduces your risk of falling. So, consider practicing one of those regularly. You can also fall-proof your house — get rid of clutter, keep stairways well lit, keep cords and wires out of pathways, get rid of rugs (or get skid-free rugs). By making your home safer, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of hassle — and pain — in the future by preventing a potential fracture.
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- People with diabetes at higher risk of bone fractures — co.uk.
- People with diabetes are at greater risk of bone fractures — EurekAlert!
- The risk of hip and non-vertebral fractures in type 1 and type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis update — Bone.
- Diabetes — Mayo Clinic.
- Tai chi, Pilates and yoga — NHS Health Scotland.
- Bone Fractures: Prevention — Cleveland Clinic.
- Bone Fractures: A Diabetes Complication Often Ignored — Everyday Health.