Diabetes – Are you at Risk?

Are you or someone you know affected by diabetes? With 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes, chances are that this condition has affected a friend or family member.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a medical condition characterized by high blood sugar. The body needs a hormone called insulin to use sugar as an energy source. In diabetes, the body is either not able to produce insulin or it is not able to properly use the insulin that it makes, resulting in high blood sugar levels. There are 4 types of diabetes – prediabetes, gestational, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes is a condition of high blood sugar, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. It is important to know that prediabetes does not always lead to diabetes. There is evidence to show that controlling blood sugar in prediabetes can prevent the progression to diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a temporary diabetes that develops during pregnancy.   Pregnant women are encouraged to get screened at 24-28 weeks during pregnancy to determine if they are affected and to initiate therapy if required. Women affected by gestational diabetes are also at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas cannot make insulin, resulting in high sugar levels in the body. This type of diabetes usually develops in childhood, but can also develop in adulthood. Risk factors for developing Type 1 diabetes are largely unknown. Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin injections and meal planning.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot use its insulin properly or does not make enough of it. This is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90% of all diabetes patients.   Type 2 diabetes often develops in adults, but children can also be affected. Treatment includes physical activity, meal planning, as well as medications and/or insulin.

Are you at risk of developing diabetes?

There are several risk factors that increase your risk of having Type 2 diabetes.

These factors include (but are not limited to):

  • Having a brother, sister, or parent with diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Having obstructive sleep apnea

If you think you might be at risk of developing diabetes, Visit www.diabetes.ca/take-the-test/ to take a short quiz to determine your risk for prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.

What can happen if I don’t control my diabetes?

Although prediabetes/diabetes does not show many symptoms, it is a progressive disease that can result in serious and even life-threatening complications if high blood sugar levels are not dealt with. These complications include heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, glaucoma, nerve damage and erectile dysfunction. Most of these complications cannot be reversed therefore it is important to control blood sugars to slow down the progression of the disease.

What can I eat?

If weight loss is needed, the Canadian Diabetes Association recommends a loss of 5-10% of body weight over a period of 6 months to be achieved through nutrition. Although there is no specific diet for diabetes, controlling your portion of carbohydrates will affect your blood sugar. The space on your plate model is a useful tool some professionals recommend to control portions. The model involves splitting your plate into 3 sections, where; half the plate consists of vegetables (at least 2 different types), a quarter of the plate consisting of meats and alternatives and a quarter of the plate is whole grains and starch-rich foods (carbohydrates). A dietician can help you if you need more support to prepare a meal plan.

Stay fit!

The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends aerobic exercise 150 minutes a week (split to 30 minutes a day for 5 days of the week; not having 2 days in a row of not exercising). The exercise should be moderate intensity to the point where there is increased heart and breathing rates but you are still able to maintain a conversation.

For more information on diabetes, visit us and speak to one of our friendly pharmacists.

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