What You Should Know About Diabetes

Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a challenging disease that affects much more than your blood sugar levels. About 150 million people around the world have diabetes, and according to the World Health Organization, this number will double by 2025. [1] Now is the time to strengthen your game plan for preventing and managing diabetes, and your first step is to become more informed. Here’s what you should know about diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

Did you know there are many types of diabetes?

Prediabetes: This diagnosis means your blood glucose levels are unusually high, but not quite at the level of type 2 diabetes. Consider this a warning stage where you still have a chance to make lifestyle changes and stop the progression to diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes: Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, this type often begins during childhood. Type 1 diabetes results when your pancreas cannot make insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels in the body. The absence of insulin causes unstable glucose levels, which ultimately damages nerves, blood vessels, and many other systems if left untreated. People with type 1 diabetes depend on insulin injections to help normalize their blood sugar levels.

Type 2 Diabetes: Commonly known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes, this type typically begins during adulthood but is now becoming more common during adolescence. Type 2 diabetes means that the insulin made by your body isn’t being used optimally by the body. This results in high blood glucose, which ultimately damages nerves, blood vessels, and many other systems if left untreated. Type 2 diabetes is often managed with lifestyle changes.

Gestational Diabetes: Up to 20% of pregnant women in Canada have gestational diabetes.[2] This type begins during pregnancy when insulin production cannot keep up with the extra pressures of carrying a growing baby and hormone changes. It causes high blood glucose, increasing the likelihood of a high birth weight baby and the risk of diabetes for mother and child later in life.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for diabetes. Some of them are influenced by lifestyle, while others you can’t control:[2],[3],[4],[5]

  • Age – Statistics show that your risk increases with age, until about 64 years of age.
  • Gender – Men have a slightly higher risk than women.
  • Genetics – People with African, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous, and South Asian ancestry are at higher risk.
  • Gestational diabetes – Women who have gestational diabetes are at higher risk.
  • Medical conditions – A variety of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, polycystic ovary syndrome, Acanthosis nigricans, psychiatric disorders, sleep apnea, genetic syndromes, and certain infections increase the risk for diabetes.
  • Medications – Certain medication can disrupt insulin production.
  • Weight – Being overweight or obese increases the risk.
  • Metabolic syndrome – Having this syndrome (a combination of high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and high waist circumference) increases the risk.

Diabetes Warning Signs and Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms of diabetes, yet some adults experience high blood sugar long before they notice anything wrong. It may be time to consult your health care provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Unusual or extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Recurring infections
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Tingling in the limbs
  • Sexual dysfunction

Daily Challenges of Living with Diabetes

There are many challenges to living with diabetes. A regular day will often involve:

  • Monitoring blood sugar
  • Taking medication
  • Eating and planning diabetes-safe meals
  • Attending doctor appointments

More challenges can arise over time because of the damaging effect that high blood glucose has on organs, nerves, and blood vessels. This may lead to complications, such as:4

  • Diabetic retinopathy (the leading cause of blindness)
  • Kidney damage and failure
  • Nerve damage
  • Joint degeneration
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetic foot disease
  • Sexual dysfunction

Lifestyle Prevention Tips

Whether you’re concerned about preventing or managing diabetes, many lifestyle choices will help keep your health and blood sugar levels in check. Make these five tips part of your plan:

1. Eat nutritious meals and snacks.
Cut back your portions and load up on dietary fibre from an assortment of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose lean sources of protein, such as fish, beans, or lean meats, healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, and stay hydrated with water.

2. Support blood glucose naturally.
Natural Factors’ WellBetX® line of products provides convenient support for anyone dealing with insulin resistance or conditions related to uncontrolled blood sugar levels. They are formulated to help with weight management and improve overall health.

3. Keep active.
Regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower blood glucose levels. It also helps boost insulin sensitivity.[6] The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.[7] Simple ways to sneak more activity into your day include:

  • Taking a brisk walk at lunch
  • Using the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Riding your bike to work

4. Plan a target weight.
Setting a goal will motivate healthy choices and help you measure the effectiveness of your diabetes prevention plan. Studies show that you can stop and even reverse the onset of type 2 diabetes by losing 5–10% of your excess body weight. [8]

5. Manage stress.
Stress affects your blood glucose levels. By learning to manage day-to-day stress, you can help keep blood glucose under control.

6. Stay Informed
Making a lifelong commitment to preventing or managing diabetes will help you lead a healthy life. One of the best actions you can take is staying informed. Talk to your health care practitioner about your risk for type 2 diabetes and what you can do to lower it.

References:

[1] World Health Organization. Diabetes mellitus. Fact sheet No138. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs138/en/ [Accessed 1 November 2018].

[2] Canadian Diabetes Association. Diabetes Canada: Risk factors. Available from: https://www.diabetes.ca/about-diabetes/risk-factors [Accessed 1 November 2018].

[3] Statistics Canada. Diabetes, 2016. Health Fact Sheets. 2017. Available from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2017001/article/54859-eng.htm [Accessed 1 November 2018].

[4] American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jan; 33(Suppl 1):S62-S69.

[5] Diabetes Canada. Living with prediabetes. Canadian Diabetes Association. Available from: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/living-with-prediabetes [Accessed 1 November 2018].

[6] Dubé JJ, Allison KF, Rousson V, et al. Exercise dose and insulin sensitivity: relevance for diabetes prevention. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 May; 44(5): 793-799.

[7] Canadian Diabetes Association. Diabetes Canada: Planning for regular physical activity. Available from: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/exercise/planning-for-regular-physical-activity [Accessed 1 November 2018].

[8] Allende-Vigo MZ. Diabetes mellitus prevention. Am J Ther. 2015 Jan-Feb; 22(1):68-72.