What is Diabetes?

Our bodies need energy to function. We get that energy from the food we eat. Our body breaks down the food we eat into glucose (sugar) to use for energy. Our body uses glucose as its main source of energy with the help of a hormone called insulin. Insulin is made by the pancreas, which is located between the stomach and the spine (see picture below, which shows the pancreas and nearby organs). Insulin acts like a key to unlock the body’s cells, so glucose can enter and serve as energy for the cells. This is how our bodies maintain a fairly normal amount of glucose in the blood. When you have diabetes, your body is unable to properly use glucose. People with diabetes cannot maintain normal glucose levels and high levels build up in the blood. This happens either because the body does not make enough insulin or because it cannot use its own natural insulin properly - a process called insulin resistance.

What you need to know about Type 2 Diabetes

The main types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Most people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. This happens either because the body does not make enough insulin or does not use it very well (insulin resistance).

Who is more likely to get Type 2 Diabetes?

You are more likely if you…

• weigh too much

• do not exercise regularly (less than three times a week)

• have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes

• have pre-diabetes (blood glucose levels higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes)

• have high blood pressure or high cholesterol

Signs of Diabetes

Some of the common signs of diabetes include...

• increased thirst

• increased hunger

• urinating a lot – often at night

• fatigue

• blurred vision from time to time

• losing weight without trying

• sores that are slow to heal

Many people do not find out they have diabetes until they have diabetes complications. However, keeping your blood glucose close to normal can delay some diabetes problems.

Preventing and Managing Diabetes

• Make wise food choices and eat regular meals

o Eat less fat – use foods that are baked, boiled, grilled or steamed more often. Eat fried foods less often.

o Eat less sugar and more high-fibre foods like vegetables, dried peas and beans, whole grain breads and cereals

o Drink plenty of water and less sugary drinks, sweets and sugared breakfast cereals

o Eat less salt by adding less when preparing foods, eating less processed foods, corn curls etc.

o Alcohol can cause health problems, especially if you have diabetes

• Be physically active

• Maintain healthy weight

• If you have medications, take them as directed by your doctor

• Take extra care of your feet to prevent injuries

• Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, sores, swelling, redness or sore toenails

• Brush your teeth twice a day or more

• Floss your teeth every day

• Get your teeth and gum cleaned and checked by your dentist twice a year

• Get regular eye exams