Posted by Annette Ruaux, BScN, PHC Nurse Practitioner on November 22, 2021
Annette Ruaux, BScN, PHC Nurse Practitioner

Did you know that 1 in 3 Canadians live with diabetes and pre-diabetes1? In fact, an estimated 1.5 million Canadians are living with diabetes and don't know it! With diabetes on the rise, it’s important to know the risk factors and learn how to prevent them.

 

What exactly is diabetes? 

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition that occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or use insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in your body absorb glucose where it can be used for energy. Think of insulin as a fuel line. All of your cells require fuel (glucose) and insulin is what lets the fuel into the cells. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream and, if left untreated, can lead to both sudden and long-term health complications.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of diabetes:

  • Unusual levels of thirst

  • More frequent urination

  • Weight gain or weight loss

  • Extreme lack of energy

  • Slow-healing cuts and bruises

  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities

  • Blurred vision

 

Types of diabetes2

Diabetes is a complicated condition known to lower life expectancy and can lead to serious problems with the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys. This may sound grim, but the important thing to remember is that diabetes can be managed. By establishing good self-management skills and collaborating with a healthcare provider, people with diabetes can live a healthy, fulfilling, active life while preventing complications.

 

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Pre-diabetes
Gestational Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. It occurs when the pancreas does not make insulin or makes very little insulin. People living with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to control the levels of glucose in their blood and prevent other health conditions from developing.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood glucose at normal levels. Approximately 80% of people with diabetes have type 2. It’s usually diagnosed in adults, but can also be found in children and teens. You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you are at risk.

Pre-diabetes occurs when your blood sugar level is higher than it should be, but not high enough for your doctor to diagnose diabetes. It is also called impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance. People with type 2 diabetes almost always have pre-diabetes first, but it doesn’t typically cause symptoms.

Gestational diabetes can develop in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. It normally goes away after childbirth, but it increases the risks of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

 

Don’t delay reaching out if you need help. If your organization has given you access to Dialogue, you could talk to a specialist today!

 

Busting diabetes myths2

 

1. Myth: I don't have a family history of diabetes, so I’m not at risk.

Fact: While family history is in fact a risk factor for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it’s not the only factor. Unhealthy lifestyle choices and certain conditions can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Having pre-diabetes

  • Having polycystic ovary disease

  • Having gestational diabetes

  • Being of Hispanic/Latin American, African American, American Indian, or of Alaskan Native descent (Some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also more at risk.)

  • Being age 45 or older

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle or being physically active less than 3 days a week 

 

2. Myth: I am overweight, which means I will eventually develop diabetes.

Fact: It’s true that being overweight or obese increases your chance of developing diabetes. However, many people who are overweight or obese never develop diabetes, and people who are normal weight or only a little overweight can still develop it.

 

3. Myth: I eat a lot of sugar, so I will likely develop diabetes.

Fact: It's no surprise that people get confused about the relationship between sugar and diabetes. This confusion may come from the fact that, when you eat food, it is converted into a sugar called glucose (the fuel our bodies need to function). The truth is that consuming sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that consuming high amounts of sugary foods or beverages isn’t harmful. If you eat more sugar than your body can use for energy, the excess will be converted and stored as body fat and can lead to weight gain and obesity. It can impact how your body uses insulin, ultimately increasing your risk of developing diabetes

 

4. Myth: People with diabetes can never eat sugar.

Fact: Sweets are full of simple sugars, which increase the amount of glucose in your blood quickly. People with diabetes should limit the amount of sugar they consume to maintain good control of their blood glucose levels and reduce the risks of associated complications. However, they can still enjoy the occasional treat when planned for by adjusting their diet and, in some cases, by adjusting their medication.

 

5. Myth: I only have borderline diabetes, so I don't need to worry.

Fact: Pre-diabetes or borderline diabetes means that you are at high risk for developing diabetes within 10 years. The good news? You may be able to lower your blood glucose to normal levels by making positive lifestyle choices.

Here are some daily healthy habits that can help prevent type 2 diabetes1:

  • Make small dietary changes, like decreasing the amount of highly processed, sugary foods and drinks you consume.

  • Plan your meals around vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, plant-based proteins, and lean meats.

  • Include more movement in your day. Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, or cycling are thought to be beneficial, but any type of movement can make a difference!

  • For people who are pre-diabetic, weight loss can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Even a 5% weight loss can be impactful.

  • Get support from a healthcare team to help you set goals and stick to them.

 

6. Myth: It’s not safe to exercise with diabetes.

Fact: Getting regular exercise is an important part of preventing and managing diabetes and pre-diabetes. Physical activity helps to boost your body's sensitivity and response to insulin, and can improve control of blood glucose levels. However, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to make sure your exercise program is safe for you.

 

A healthier lifestyle can start today 

If you think you may be at risk for diabetes, take the risk assessment screening test and connect with your healthcare provider. You can also explore Diabetes Canada’s free Diabetes Prevention Program, designed to guide you in making healthier lifestyle choices and significantly reduce your risks of developing diabetes.

 

Want to get preventative about your health? Connect with a Dialogue healthcare professional today.

Access Dialogue

 

Resources
  1. https://www.diabetes.ca/

  2. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/special-topic/diabetes-myths-and-facts

Topics: Health and Wellness