Diabetes is a chronic disease that happens when a person can’t make insulin anymore or their body cannot use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in your blood. When you have diabetes, you get high blood sugar and over the long term, this can damage your organs, blood vessels and nerves.
Types of Diabetes
- Type 1 (10% of people with diabetes)
- This happens when your immune system attacks and kills cells of your pancreas. When this happens, almost no insulin is produced and this causes high blood sugar. It usually develops in childhood or adolescence.
- Type 2 (90% of people with diabetes)
- This happens when your body can’t properly use the insulin that is produced or does not make enough insulin. This also causes high blood sugar, instead of the sugar being used as energy. It usually develops in adults.
- Gestational Diabetes (3-20% of pregnant women)
- A short-term condition that only happens during pregnancy. Developing gestational diabetes can increase the risk of developing diabetes in the future for the mother and the baby.
Treatments/Management for Diabetes
You can manage diabetes by:
- taking insulin as recommended (sometimes pills are prescribed for type 2)
- monitoring your blood sugar levels frequently using a home glucose meter
- recognizing the signs of highs and lows
- eating healthy meals and snacks
- enjoying regular physical activity
- aiming for a healthy body weight
- managing your stress effectively
Risk Factors for Diabetes
- A family member with diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High-risk group (African, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous, or South Asian descent; low socioeconomic status)
- Having a large baby (>9lbs)
- History of gestational diabetes
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- History of corticosteroid use
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Acanthosis nigricans
- Schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder
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Complications of Diabetes
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Foot problems (pain and amputation)
- Eye disease (can lead to blindness)
- Heart disease (heart attack or stroke)
- Pain (caused by nerve damage)
- Erectile dysfunction
*Managing your blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of developing these complications.
Prevalence of Diabetes in Canada (2011)
What is my A1C?
- Blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- Shows how well you are managing your diabetes
- The result determines your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months
- The A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen, is coated with sugar (glycated)
- The higher your A1C, the worse your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of complications from your diabetes
- Targets for diabetics
- <6.5 if needed to lower the risk of kidney or eye damage
- <7 for most people with diabetes
- <7.1-8.5 for some with certain conditions (ex: frail elderly or frequent hypoglycemia)
Helpful Links and Contacts
Canadian Diabetes Strategy
Certified Diabetes Educators
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Diabetes Care Centers
Where to find a diabetes care center in Nova Scotia
What do Diabetes Care centers do?
Diabetes Canada (Formerly Diabetes Association of Canada)