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Diabetes and you

Learn about it, manage it, support a loved one who has it

Chances are high that you know someone who has diabetes, and perhaps, just like over 3 million Canadians, you even have it yourself. Diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart attacks, eye disease, and kidney disease, so it’s important to keep an eye on your risk factors and get screened for the disease. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the better you can manage it and continue to live your best life—and your Pharmasave pharmacist can help you along the way.

Types of diabetes

Diabetes falls into three main types: type 1, type 2, and gestational (during pregnancy).

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that helps your body control the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood. About 9% of people with diabetes have type 1, which usually—but not always—develops before adulthood. Red flags include unusual thirst, frequent urination, extreme lack of energy, frequent infections, blurred vision, and tingling or numbness in your hands or feet. If you or a loved one suspects type 1 diabetes, seek medical attention right away.

Type 2 diabetes develops when your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin properly.Up to 90% of Canadians with diabetes have this type. Symptoms are similar to those of type 1 diabetes, but they generally come on more slowly—and some people don’t notice any symptoms at all.

Gestational diabetes occurs in 3 to 20% of pregnant women. While the condition goes away after delivery, it may increase your—and your child’s—risk of developing diabetes later in life.

A chance to make changes
Almost 6 million Canadians have prediabetes—blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Think of prediabetes as a warning signal: if you manage your blood sugar now, you can reduce the risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes.
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Who is at risk?

The risk factors for type 1 diabetes are not well understood. Researchers suspect that both genes and environment play a role, and having a parent or sibling with the condition slightly increases your risk.

We know a lot more about the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Your risk goes up if you’re over 40, have an affected parent or sibling, or belong to certain ethnic groups, such as African, Asian, or Indigenous. While you can’t do anything about your background, you may be able to manage or reduce many other risk factors, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol or other fats in your blood
  • Excess weight (especially if carried around the stomach area) or obesity
  • Prediabetes
  • Certain mental health disorders (including depression and bipolar disorder)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Sleep apnea

Did you know your risk of gestational diabetes also goes up if you have these risk factors, if you had gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy, or if you have given birth to a baby weighing more than 4 kg (9 lbs).

Your Pharmasave pharmacist can answer your questions, provide advice, and address your concerns!

Made-in-Canada risk tool
Want to know more about your personal risk of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes? With simple questions you can answer in a few moments, the Canadian Diabetes Risk (CANRISK) calculator will give you a risk score, let you know if your risk is elevated, and tell you what you can do about it.
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Testing, one two

There are two types of tests that can lead to a diagnosis of diabetes:

  • Screening test: given to large numbers of people who don’t necessarily have symptoms but may be at higher risk (for example, due to age). A positive result means you may have diabetes—and need more testing to confirm it.
  • Diagnostic test: given to people with a positive screening test or who have symptoms that suggest diabetes. A positive result indicates you have diabetes.

There is currently no routine screening program for type 1 diabetes, because we don’t know how to prevent or delay the disease. On the other hand, screening for type 2 diabetes is very useful because lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Here’s what the Diabetes Canada guidelines recommend:

  • Once you turn 40, you should be screened at least every 3 years.
  • If you have 1 or more risk factors (see risk-factor), you should be screened earlier and/or more frequently.

To screen for type 2 diabetes, the Canadian guidelines recommend one or both of these tests:

  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG): measures your blood sugar after you haven’t eaten for 8 hours.
  • A1C: reveals if you’ve had high blood sugar over the past 2 or 3 months.

If the result is higher than normal, your doctor will advise you to screen more often (generally every 6 to 12 months)—or may test you again to confirm a diagnosis.

Undetected diabetes
A substantial number of Canadians are living with diabetes—but don’t know it. On average, type 2 diabetes starts developing about 4 to 7 years before it is diagnosed. Regular screening and testing can decrease the lag time.
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Monitoring your blood sugar

A big part of managing diabetes is monitoring (checking) your blood sugar. This will help you:

  • Identify when your levels get too high or too low.
  • Figure out how your lifestyle and medications affect your blood sugar.
  • Help you and your diabetes care team make changes to improve your blood sugar levels.

Diabetes Canada recommends the targets below for most people with diabetes. Your doctor will help you set personal targets, which may be different.

Recommended blood sugar targets

After fasting (mmol/L) 2 hours after eating (mmol/L) A1C*
4 to 7 5 to 10 7% or less

* Gives you an estimate of blood sugar control over the past 2-3 months

Many devices for monitoring blood sugar are available at the pharmacy., There are two basic types of blood glucose monitoring systems that can be used to check your blood sugar:

  • Blood glucose meter: This device analyzes a small amount of your blood, usually taken from a fingertip.
  • Continuous glucose monitor (CGM): A CGM uses a sensor under the skin to measure glucose, which means it doesn’t require regular finger pricks.

Talk to your Pharmasave pharmacist for advice on the different glucose monitors available.

So how often do you test? If you take insulin, you’ll need to test more often—up to several times a day. If you’re not on insulin, the timing and frequency of testing will depend on your unique diabetes and medication profile. This Diabetes Canada tool can help you estimate how often you’ll need to test.

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Living your best lifestyle

With diabetes, lifestyle matters—a lot. Healthy eating and exercise can help you control your blood sugar levels and prevent or delay serious diabetes complications. Good eating habits for diabetes look very much like… good eating habits for anyone. Here are some basics:

  • Choose lean proteins such as eggs, lean meat, fish, and milk.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and green, leafy vegetables.
  • Choose foods with a low glycemic index (which are less likely to affect your blood sugar) such as vegetables and whole-wheat pasta. See Glycemic Index Food Guide for tips.
  • Limit foods high in fat and sugar, except as emergency treatment for low blood sugar.
  • When eating out or ordering in, choose baked, grilled, roasted, or steamed options—or mix takeout food with a vegetable dish you prepare at home.

If you have diabetes, give yourself the gift of exercise. Research has shown it works as well as some medications, but with fewer side effects.  And if you are at risk of diabetes, regular exercise could delay or prevent the disease from developing.

Aim for 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes per day) of aerobic exercise (such as walking or jogging), along with two weekly sessions of weight training.If you’re new to exercise, start with 5-to-10-minute sessions and build up from there. Raining outside? Use your own home as a gym:

  • Do jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges.
  • Do arm-strengthening exercises using water bottles as weights.
  • Walk up and down the hall or (if you’re already used to exercising) up the stairs, perhaps using a backpack filled with books to add a challenge.
  • Dance to your favourite music or download a dance video and follow along.

Speak to your Pharmasave pharmacist today on tips for a healthier you.

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How your Pharmasave pharmacists can support you

As Canada’s most accessible healthcare providers, pharmacists are there when you need them. Here’s how your Pharmasave pharmacists can help you understand, avoid, and manage your diabetes:

  • Assess and reduce your risk: Pharmacists use risk tools and test results to figure out your risk of developing diabetes in the future and offer strategies to reduce the risk.
  • Identify diabetes: Your pharmacist can play an active role in detecting diabetes that hasn’t been diagnosed yet, and refer you to health professionals who can diagnose and treat it.
  • Teach and train you to manage diabetes: Your pharmacist can educate you about the disease and show you how to monitor blood sugar.
  • Help you reduce the risk of complications: Your pharmacist can share strategies and tips that can help you prevent or delay diabetes complications.
  • Ensure you take your medications properly: This may be your pharmacist’s most important role. Your pharmacist will also help you understand and manage side effects.
  • Advise you on other health products you may be using: Your pharmacist can let you know which over the counter and natural health products may interfere with your diabetes treatment or medications.
Off the shelf
Pharmacies carry many products that help people with diabetes, such as blood glucose monitors, test strips and lancets, footcare products, glucose tablets, moisturizers, and dental health products. Whatever you need, your pharmacist can help.

Pharmasave pharmacists are your trusted source for diabetes care. They are trained in diabetes management and can provide personalized consultation and care on a drop-in basis or by scheduled appointment. Speak with your Pharmasave pharmacist today!

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