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April 15, 2014

Diabetes: Understanding and treating it

Diabetes is a chronic disease that prevents the body from producing enough insulin or from using insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and is essential for turning glucose (sugar) in the food we eat into energy.

Types of diabetes

Type 1 

In people with this type of diabetes (approximately 10% of cases), the pancreas produces very little or no insulin. They must absolutely receive an external dose of insulin to manage their blood glucose levels (glycemia). Type 1 diabetes normally appears before the age of 30, often during childhood or adolescence. It is believed to be hereditary, but its exact cause remains unknown at this time.

Type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes represent approximately 90% of cases. Their pancreas produces insulin, but their body does not use it appropriately. In certain cases, there is also an insufficient production of insulin. Type 2 diabetes often occurs in people over the age of 40 and those who are overweight.

In addition to age and weight, here are other risk factors related to type 2 diabetes: 

•    Physical inactivity and poor nutrition
•    Heredity and belonging to an ethnic group at risk for the disease (Native, Latin American, Asian or African);
•    Certain diseases (hypertensionhigh cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome) Elevated cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Gestational or pregnancy diabetes 

This temporary disorder, which normally disappears after the delivery, affects 3 to 20 percent of pregnant women. In addition, it increases a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Symptoms of diabetes

The most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are generally the same as those for type 1 :

•    Fatigue, drowsiness
•    Frequent need to urinate
•    Intense hunger and thirst
•    Dry mouth
•    Involuntary weight loss
•    Blurry vision
•    Slow wound healing
•    Genital infections 

Diabetes develops slowly and silently. For many years, it can go unnoticed since no signs of the disease are present. Over time, however, symptoms begin to appear, indicating the gradual damage caused by the condition. 

Complications

Left untreated or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to serious consequences and various complications, such as:

1.    Cardiovascular diseases
2.    Strokes (cerebrovascular accidents)
3.    Problems with blood circulation
4.    Kidney failure 
5.    Vision problems
6.    Neurological problems

Fortunately, by managing your blood glucose levels, you can prevent diabetes complications or delay their onset.

Measuring glycemia

Glycemia corresponds to glucose levels in the blood. If you have diabetes, your fasting glycemia level should be between 4 and 7 mmol/L, while your postprandial level (2 hours after a meal) should range from 5 to 10 mmol/L. It can be measured at home using a blood glucose meter, available at your pharmacy.

Talk to your Uniprix-affiliated pharmacist about selecting the type of blood glucose meter that best meets your needs.

Treatment

While diabetes cannot be cured, it is possible to treat it, delay its onset or prevent complications by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Education

The first step to take in living as normally as possible with diabetes is definitely to learn more about it. You can do this in any number of ways: reading up on the disease, taking part in group or individual training sessions or attending a support group. 

Knowledge is the key to better control of diabetes.

Nutrition

Good nutrition is, without a doubt, the starting point for any offensive against diabetes. Essentially, you need to eat right to: 

•    Better manage the level of sugar and fat in your blood
•    Better control your blood pressure 
•    Reduce the risk of complications
•    Reach and maintain a healthy weight 

A balanced diet is the best course of action. Choose foods that are low in salt, fat and added sugar. You should also increase your intake of fibre-rich foods.

Physical activity and weight management

Many specialists agree that physical activity offers more benefits to people with diabetes than many other types of treatments. This is why they recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week (walking, biking, swimming, etc.) over a minimum of 5 days. Exercise helps to better control glycemia, reduces the risk of complications and may even delay the onset of the disease. Combined with a 5 to 10 percent weight loss, moderate physical activity for just 30 minutes per day, five days a week can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%.

To better manage your weight and learn your healthy weight, use our BMI calculator

Medication

Often, healthy eating and an exercise regimen aren't enough to keep blood glucose levels within the right range. The doctor may therefore prescribe certain drugs to help you control your blood sugar. Each case is unique and may require different medications. In fact, it’s not unusual to have to take more than one drug to get glycemia levels under control. Medications for diabetes come in the form of pills or injections. 

Insulin

In some people, oral anti-diabetic drugs do not work for them, and insulin injections may be necessary to either supplement or replace the oral medication.

Insulin therapy has earned a bit of a negative reputation among some people. However, it has become so much more user friendly thanks to new injection devices now available on the market. These are a godsend for many people with diabetes. Talk to your pharmacist about this option.

Pharmacy services

If you have diabetes, it is extremely important to properly control your blood glucose. If you are having difficulty reaching the targets set by your healthcare professional or if you experience bouts of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, speak with your family pharmacists. They can give you advice and recommend changes to your drug therapy, if need be.

Many Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies offer a blood glucose monitoring service and private consultations on diabetes management. Ask about these services. 

*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.

Services in pharmacy are the sole responsibility of pharmacist-owners. Only pharmacists are responsible for pharmacy practice. They only provide related services acting under a pharmacist-owner's name.

The uniprix.com Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.