It’s possible to live a full, healthy life with diabetes, but the key is managing the chronic disease well. When medications aren’t taken as prescribed, or when diet and exercise aren’t part of the treatment equation, serious complications may develop. Piedmont Healthcare Endocrinologist N. Spencer Welch, MD, discusses what you need to know about avoiding diabetes complications. 1. Q: What’s the connection between diabetes and your heart? A: Folks with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than folks that don’t have diabetes. And they are four times more likely to die from heart attack or stroke than people who don’t have diabetes. 2. Q: What are some other complications of diabetes to be aware of? A: Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease leading to dialysis, the leading cause of blindness, and the leading cause of amputations not caused by accidents or trauma. 3. Q: Why do people begin experiencing complications of diabetes? A: We work hard to get patients to do the right things, to get their A1C down and avoid complications. It is frustrating because, since some people are unwilling to give up their lifestyles or exercise or take their medications appropriately, we’ll see folks that develop complications. And it’s sad because the complications are avoidable. However there are some folks, if they start developing numbness or pain in their feet, or if they have a heart attack or something goes wrong with their kidneys or their eyes, all the sudden they get that wake-up call to say, ‘hey, this disease is real and I need to do something about it.’ 4. Q: What do you think is the hardest part about treating diabetes? A: The hardest part about treating diabetes is that it’s very labor-intensive and it doesn’t hurt – in the short-term. I mean, when you eat a little extra over the short term, it’s not going to hurt you. If you gain a few pounds over the short-term, it’s not going to hurt you. It’s always the long haul of diabetes working on the blood vessels and nerves that eventually leads to those complications that do hurt and get your attention.