Horrifying Ways Diabetes Could Actually Kill You

Diabetes is one of the most expensive health conditions you can develop. Millions of Americans — about 9% of the population — have it. Some have it, but don’t know it — which increases their chances of developing fatal complications.

This disease can kill you. It takes the lives of thousands of people every year. The reasons behind these fatalities, however, might surprise you.

How is Type 2 diabetes different than Type 1?

Diabetes can be a dangerous disease. | SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

Type 1 diabetes is far less common than Type 2. While Type 1 is technically an autoimmune response, Type 2 develops due to insulin resistance, something that often happens when the body can’t produce enough insulin to draw excess sugar out of someone’s blood.

Untreated, both types can have serious, even fatal complications. However, because so many people live with Type 2, it’s much more common to die from complications related to that type specifically.

Next: Is it all that rare to die from diabetes?

How many people die from diabetes complications?

man is measuring the level of glucose

Make sure you’re careful with your medications. | iStock.com/BernardaSv

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of death in the United States. Approximately 80,000 people died from related complications in 2015.

It isn’t the disease itself that kills its victims, but instead the deadly side effects that arise if it isn’t treated properly. Your organs don’t perform well when high blood sugar becomes your body’s regular condition. Here’s why people can’t live like this forever — and what you can do to improve your own outcome.

Next: This unexpected complication is both unpleasant and deadly.

Diabetes destroys your kidneys

kidney cross section

This part of the body is in danger. | iStock.com/HYWARDS

Your kidneys are one of the primary ways your body rids itself of potentially harmful toxins. If they don’t function properly, the resulting kidney disease could lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal. Diabetes is the leading cause of all kidney diseases nationwide.

How does diabetes cause your kidneys to fail? High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in your kidneys, impairing their function — sometimes permanently.

Next: Your kidneys aren’t the only organs high blood pressure destroys.

It could affect your blood pressure

Nurse Visiting Senior Male Patient

Keep an eye on your numbers. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

About 80% of people living with diabetes also have high blood pressure. It’s hard to tell which might trigger or worsen the other, because so many of these conditions are related. Any form of stress on your body can put you at risk for serious harm — and even death.

High blood pressure alone can cause a long list of additional complications, including nerve damage in your eyes, osteoporosis, dementia, and more.

Next: Your brain depends on normal blood sugar levels to keep you alive.

Some people have seizures

Male Diabetic Checking Blood Sugar

It’s important to take good care of yourself. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to something called HHNS, which causes blood sugar levels to spike to dangerous heights. If a person with this condition becomes severely dehydrated, the consequences could become deadly.

Seizures aren’t uncommon in this stage of HHNS. Your body needs adequate fluids to function, but it’s difficult to stay hydrated when your blood sugar levels are out of control.

Next: Diabetes will break your heart — literally.

It also damages your blood vessels and heart

Doctor drawing ecg heartbeat chart

The impact of diabetes can be significant. | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

It’s no surprise that both diabetes and heart disease are leading causes of death among American adults. High blood sugar damages your heart, even if that might not seem possible.

Adults with diabetes are up to four times more likely to die of heart disease than those without it. The American Heart Association even considers diabetes one of the seven heart disease risk factors you can actually control.

Next: This complication hurts more than your heart — it endangers your brain, too.

You could have a stroke

Stethoscope sitting on an red ECG printout

Your heart may be in danger. | iStock.com/RTimages

Long-term damage to your heart and blood vessels significantly increases your risk of having a stroke. The same way a heart attack results from blockages in your arteries, interrupted blood supply to your brain can deprive it of oxygen — which often leads to brain damage and death.

You might regularly engage in a number of bad habits that increase your stroke risk without even knowing it. Something as seemingly harmless as sitting for too many hours every day can increase your chances of dying unexpectedly.

Next: Is medication enough to keep diabetes under control?

Medication alone usually isn’t enough

young man using lancelet on finger

Often it takes more than remembering to take your medications. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

If you want to live a long, healthy life — even with a diabetes diagnosis — a regular dose of insulin might not be enough.

Not everyone can say goodbye to high blood sugar for good. However, losing weight through better nutrition and regular exercise decreases your risk of dying from one or many of the above potentially fatal complications. Small, gradual changes matter. They might even save your life.

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