Dealing with diabetes complications

My husband is a diabetic, and I would like to know how long it takes before diabetes affects your liver? Should I be worrying about him?” Alicia Greenway.

Dear Alicia,

You’re wise to think about steps to protect your husband’s liver – diabetes is a lifelong condition that affects the liver and vice versa. Being informed is the first step towards ensuring good liver health. Those with diabetes are at higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which extra fat builds up in the liver even if you drink little or no alcohol. Other medical conditions related to diabetes — including obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure — also raise the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Diabetes does not cause fatty liver disease, but the two tend to occur in the same people because the same conditions cause both problems.

Diabetic-related liver disease can be largely prevented. Good control of blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, and having regular check-ups to monitor the effects of medication can help reduce the risk of liver problems.

Strategies for protection against fatty liver disease include:

  • Working with your health care team towards good control of your blood sugar.
  • Losing weight if necessary, and trying to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Taking steps to reduce high blood pressure.
  • Keeping your cholesterol within recommended limits.
  • Not drinking too much alcohol.

Then, let’s talk about worry. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Leo Buscaglia.

Having a partner with diabetes puts unique strains on a relationship, but it can also bring you closer together if you learn how to work together. Here are some golden rules for rising to the challenge of managing a chronic disease like diabetes:

  • Get educated
  • Communicate
  • Listen
  • Set shared goals
  • Make room for negative emotions
  • Get support from others
  • Commit to nurturing your relationship.

You can do it if you work together.

– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator


How to fix bad eating habits

I feel like my husband thinks that if I don’t see him cheating on his diet, it doesn’t count. I don’t want to be a nag, but I know he isn’t eating right… How do you suggest I encourage him to eat better?” Cheryl Lee.

Dear Cheryl,

I have no magic advice for you, but I feel the pain of your situation. As a caring partner, you feel worried about how his eating habits are affecting his diabetes. From his side, he is obviously trying to please you by eating correctly in front of you (but cheating on the side).

You need to get your husband to take responsibility for his condition and accept the importance of eating correctly. After all: it is his health at stake here.

Perhaps you could help him figure out a meal plan that looks at his likes and dislikes, eating habits and schedule, and any other health issues that may affect the way he eats. Try and come up with a meal plan that’s realistic – and one he may actually stick to. That said, it’s always important to be sensitive when advising someone about their eating habits. Change is hard for everyone, especially older adults who’ve been doing what they do for a long time.

Communication is the only way that you are going to resolve this issue. Do it in a gentle way and if he does not hear what you are saying, be as honest as you can and tell him exactly how you feel.

Help him set small, achievable goals. Do this as a couple and focus on what is important. You know he doesn’t want you to be disappointed in him and your opinion is therefore important. This gives you the opportunity to help him. Maybe if you communicate to him how hard it is for you see him hiding his cheating, he might be more open with you and make everything a lot easier for both of you.

– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator