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Diabetes is on the rise, but some simple steps may help lessen - or, in some cases, prevent - its severity.

Diabetes causes symptoms prevention treatment

More than three million Canadians have diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood, or the body does not properly use the insulin it makes. The disease is on the rise — it is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association. Over time, high blood-glucose levels caused by the disease can result in complications such as blindness, heart disease and kidney problems.

Diabetes causes The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known; however, the disease is not caused by eating too much sugar and is not preventable. People are usually diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before the age of 30, most often during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood — an increasing number of children and teens are being diagnosed with this form of the disease — and is preventable. A healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Being obese and over the age of 35 increases the risk for developing gestational diabetes, a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy.

Diabetes symptoms A diabetes sufferer may experience unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change, blurred vision and extreme fatigue. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms.

Diabetes diagnosis/tests If you think you may have diabetes, see your doctor who will likely order a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) blood test to determine your average blood sugar level for the past few months. Other tests for diabetes include a random blood sugar test to check blood sugar levels; a number over 200mg/dL suggests that you have the disease. For a fasting blood sugar test, your blood sample will be taken after you fast overnight. It will determine if your blood sugar levels are normal, prediabetic or diabetic. If you’re found to be diabetic, you’ll undergo further blood tests to determine if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes treatment Insulin therapy, administered by a syringe, pen or pump, is the treatment for type 1 diabetes and may also be prescribed for some people with type 2 diabetes. To manage both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, sufferers should monitor their blood-glucose levels regularly, engage in physical activity and eat a healthy diet.

Diabetes prevention Improving your health and making lifestyle changes can go a long way to protecting against type 2 diabetes. Lose excess weight so you’ve got a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) between 18.5 and 24.9 and a waist circumference under 35 inches (40 for men) to ensure you aren’t carrying unhealthy fat around your belly. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. Talk to your health care provider if you need help.

More info from Chatelaine
How to lower your sugar intake

Outside resources
Canadian Diabetes Association