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6 Questions to Better Understand Diabetes

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Diabetes is a major problem in our society. It affects an increasing number of people, both in Quebec and around the world. Even if it doesn’t concern you directly, a good understanding of the illness is crucial to its prevention.

Le diabète, un problème de société grandissant

1. What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health problem that causes hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Over time, hyperglycemia leads to diabetes-related complications.

The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which allows glucose (sugar) in the blood to be absorbed by the body’s cells and supply them with energy. Diabetics do not produce enough insulin and/or their body cells cannot use the insulin to absorb their blood glucose. This second phenomenon is known as insulin resistance.

2. What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs in children, adolescents, or young adults. It cannot be prevented and is characterized by a total inability to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetics need daily insulin injections to survive.

Type 2 diabetes, which affects 90% of diabetics, is principally caused by insulin resistance. This resistance stems mainly from being overweight. In fact, 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Genetic factors also predispose certain people to diabetes.  

3. What causes Type 2 diabetes?

This disease may be the result of a combination of factors:

  • Gender (men are more at risk)
  • Age (risk increases with age)
  • Excess weight (especially in the form of abdominal fat)
  • Lifestyle (physical activity and diet)
  • High blood pressure
  • Genetics
  • Ethnic origin (Aboriginal people, Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans appear to develop the disease more frequently than other ethnic groups)

4. What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are often so minor (fatigue, severe thirst and hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, etc.) that they may go unnoticed for years. To prevent the illness from developing without your knowledge, you should take a blood test if any of the above causal factors apply to you.

5. What are the complications?

The complications associated with this disease are what affect diabetics’ quality of life and increase the number of diabetes-related deaths.

Here are a few examples:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Loss of vision
  • Kidney failure
  • Amputation

6. How can the effects of diabetes be prevented or minimized?

The key to preventing and treating diabetes is a healthy lifestyle. Diabetes cannot be cured, but you can limit its consequences by making healthy lifestyle choices:

  • Losing weight
  • Adopting a healthy diet
  • Doing regular exercise
  • Learning to manage stress
  • Stop smoking
  • Taking your medication as prescribed

Talk to your pharmacist if you have questions or need advice on the subject.  

Diabetes during pregnancy

Diabetes during pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes, affects 4% to 6% of pregnant women and generally appears at the end of the second trimester, then disappears after childbirth.  

This type of diabetes affects both mother and child. The child risks being larger than average at birth and developing diabetes later in his life, while the mother runs a higher risk of infection, fatigue, and complications during childbirth.

It is recommended that pregnant women take a screening test between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Then, they can talk to their doctor or pharmacist about how to reduce the risks related to this condition.  


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