Diabetes: it’s Not Your Fault
Diabetes is a complicated condition. It is a disease in which your body either can’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels and helps your body to use sugar for energy. Normally, blood sugars are regulated to ensure the body functions properly. Too much sugar can cause damage to organs, blood vessels and nerves.
Eleven million Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes. In Ontario, the Norwest Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has a higher rate of diabetes than the province overall (6.1% as compared to 4.8%). Having high blood sugar can cause complications, such as kidney disease, foot and leg problems, eye disease, heart attack and stroke, anxiety, nerve damage, amputation and erectile dysfunction. Diabetes related complications can be very serious and life-threatening.
There are three major types of diabetes: Type 2 diabetes being the most common; Type 1; and Gestational diabetes. Despite popular belief, diabetes IS NOT caused by eating too much sugar and people don’t “give themselves” diabetes. Also, it’s not contagious. The cause of diabetes depends on your genes, family history, ethnic background and other factors such as the environment and your health. It also depends on the type of diabetes you have.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack and destroy pancreas cells, making your body unable to produce insulin. This form of diabetes usually develops early in life but can also develop in adulthood. Roughly 10% of people living with diabetes have Type 1. Researchers believe that your genes or the environment may be responsible for triggering Type 1 diabetes. There is ongoing research to determine the causes of type 1 and ways to prevent it.
Ninety percent of people living with diabetes have type 2; the insulin made can’t be used properly or your body isn’t able to produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes is most common in adulthood however we are seeing children being diagnosed as well. Type 2 can be managed with healthy eating and regular exercise, but Type 2 often progresses and you may need medications and/or insulin therapy. Several factors such as age, body fat (especially around your abdomen), ethnic background, family history, environmental factors, and inactivity can make you more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes that only occurs in pregnancy due to hormone changes. A woman’s genes, diet and activity levels can also contribute. Again, family history is a contributor. Between 3-20% of pregnant women develop gestational depending on their risk factors. This diagnosis may increase the risk of developing diabetes later in life for both mom and baby.
Prediabetes (previously called borderline) is another important diagnosis. It is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2. The term “Borderline” is no longer used; you either are or you are not. Not everyone with prediabetes will develop Type 2, but many will.
The risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes is 40% for individuals who have one parent with type 2, and 70% if both parents are affected. First degree relatives of individuals with Type 2 are about three times more likely to develop the disease. However, having genetic risk isn’t enough to give you the disease, your lifestyle patterns also affect this risk factor. If you remain inactive, have an unhealthy dietary pattern, smoke cigarettes, etc. then your risk goes up on top of your inherited likelihood of developing diabetes.
Your diabetes is not your fault, what matters now is what you do about it.
NorWest Community Health Centres is committed to providing education and support for people with diabetes through a variety of services. For information, contact Angel Fonseca, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, at 626-8484 or AFonseca@norwestchc.org or Cheryl Schultz, Registered Nurse, at 626-7857 or CSchultz@norwestchc.org.
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