Diabetes is one of the world’s oldest known diseases, with a history that dates back 4,000 years to Chinese medical records! Today, it ranks as the most common chronic illness in North America. Let’s start with a few statistics.
- More than 9% of Canadians have diabetes; that’s 3.3 million people.
- Approximately one third of people with diabetes don’t know they have it.
- Some 35,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in Quebec each year.
- About 1 in 8 people will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime.
- The most common form of diabetes – type 2 – is closely linked to cardiovascular disease: in 4 out of 5 cases, people with type 2 diabetes will die of heart disease.
- 6 in 10 people with diabetes also have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.
Diabetes has two causes: the insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas or the inadequate use by the body of the insulin produced. Insulin is a hormone that carries glucose into the body’s cells from the blood. If the body lacks insulin, glucose remains in the blood, causing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar level).
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes represents only 10% of cases of diabetes. Those who have it do not produce any insulin at all. As a result, they require daily insulin injections. This form of diabetes often occurs at puberty, hence its former name “juvenile diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes results from the insufficient production of insulin by the body or the poor use of insulin by the cells (known as “insulin resistance”). It usually develops in adults, but in recent years, it is starting earlier in life due to poor lifestyle choices: unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, etc.
While you cannot prevent type 1 diabetes since it is due to genetic factors, you can avoid or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. All experts agree that prevention is the key. For example, adopting a healthy, balanced lifestyle, which includes a sound diet and regular exercise, is one of the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes. Starting at age 40, you also need to get tested for the disease every three years.
Complications of type 2 diabetes
High levels of glucose in the blood can affect many organs. In fact, diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness, amputation, renal failure, neuropathies (diseases of the nervous system), heart disease and strokes.
To prevent these complications, the best strategy is to control your blood glucose levels as much as possible through a healthy lifestyle and medication. People with diabetes need to measure their blood glucose on a regular basis using a blood glucose meter available at the pharmacy.
There are various models of blood glucose meters available. Your pharmacist can help you choose the one that will be right for you, based on your answers to the following questions:
- Do you have any specific issues (e.g., problems with your vision or dexterity)?
- What type of lifestyle do you have? (e.g. at home, working on the road, shift work)?
- What are your preferences (e.g. a device that is easy to use or one with more advanced technological features)?
Your family pharmacists can help you with the overall management of your diabetes. Whether you need information on prevention measures, medication or blood glucose testing, feel free to ask them.
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.