Did you know that one in three Canadians has either diabetes or prediabetes? That’s 11 million people, including 1.5 million who have type 2 diabetes and don’t realize it. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and we’re shining a spotlight on this major health issue.
There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. There is also a diagnosis called “prediabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes occurs when an individual has little or no insulin, a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and is responsible for regulating the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. When blood sugar is too high, it can cause damage to organs and other parts of the body. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that usually develops in childhood or adolescence but can develop in adulthood. Genetics and environmental factors may play a role. Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin injections, as well as other medications if needed, and managed with healthy lifestyle habits including a nutritious diet and regular exercise. Among people with diabetes, 10% have type 1.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly use the insulin that is released or does not make enough insulin. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy. Type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed if an individual makes lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet and exercising regularly. Depending on the severity of type 2 diabetes, it may be managed through physical activity and meal planning, or may also require medications and/or insulin to better control blood sugar. Approximately 90% of people with diabetes have type 2.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that affects 3% to 20% of pregnant women. It is caused by hormonal changes. Genetics, diet and exercise habits may also play a role.
Prediabetes is a condition in which an individual has elevated blood sugar levels, but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes may not have any signs or symptoms, but it is a serious condition. If an adult or child diagnosed with prediabetes does not make lifestyle changes, they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other names for prediabetes are “impaired glucose tolerance” and “impaired fasting glucose.”
Common symptoms of diabetes include: unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change (gain or loss), extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, and for men, trouble getting or maintaining an erection.
If you notice these or other unusual symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Diabetes Canada recommends that anyone over age 40 should be tested for diabetes every three years.
What are your risk factors for type 2 diabetes? There are some that you can’t change: age over 40, having a family history of diabetes, and having Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Arab, Hispanic or African heritage. The ones you can change: not eating a healthy diet, being overweight or obese, not exercising enough, and smoking.
Diabetes Canada offers an online questionnaire to help people assess their risks for type 2 diabetes.
A diabetes diagnosis is life-changing, but it’s important to remember that you play a major role in managing your condition. If diabetes is not well controlled, an individual may experience serious complications such as kidney disease, eye disease, foot and leg problems, heart attacks, strokes or nerve damage. It’s important to work closely with your physician and understand how to manage your blood-glucose levels.
To learn more about living with diabetes, visit Diabetes Canada.
The information above is not health advice and should not be treated as such. For more information on diabetes, please consult your doctor.