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Frequently asked questions

Simply put, diabetes is a chronic (ongoing, long-term) disease in which the body cannot make or properly use insulin. But there’s a lot more to diabetes: it can affect many different parts of your body negatively – including your heart. But there are simple steps you can take to help make sure your diabetes is managed and you stay

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body does not make any insulin.

In type 1 diabetes, the body's own immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take an injectable insulin therapy every day. Meal planning is also very important, to help keep blood sugars at the right levels.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that usually develops in adulthood, but it can occur in children.

In type 2 diabetes, the body can’t properly use the insulin that’s available or is unable to produce enough. Type 2 diabetes can be managed through exercise, diet, medications or insulin. Roughly 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes and it is more common in adults than children.

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes type 2 diabetes, although certain factors can increase your risk. Being overweight, being physically inactive, family history, ethnicity and age are things that can affect your risk of type 2 diabetes, while high blood pressure and high cholesterol play a role as well.

There are several risk factors, which can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, including having a close relative with the disease or being a member of a high-risk group (Indigenous, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian or African descent). Other things like high blood pressure, cholesterol or being overweight can also indicate increased risk of diabetes and the need for more frequent testing. Diabetes Canada urges Canadians over 40 to be tested for diabetes at least once every three years.

Type 2 diabetes is more closely connected with genetics than type 1 diabetes, however, lifestyle factors play a role as well. Families typically have similar eating and exercise habits, which makes it difficult to determine if diabetes is caused by genes you inherit, or because of shared family habits and activities.

There are things that can be done to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. The three most important are:

  1. Eating nutritious foods - limit sugar and foods that are high in saturated fat, while increasing intake of fruits and vegetables
  2. Getting more physical activity - adding exercise into your routine is crucial. Try to do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, which can be broken down to at least 10 minutes at a time, and two sessions of a resistance strength exercise at least two days per week.
  3. Losing excess weight - beyond lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, losing weight will improve your heart health, energy and overall self-esteem. Eating nutritious foods and getting more physical activity will both help you keep your weight in an ideal range.

At the moment, there is no cure for diabetes. It’s crucial that people with diabetes who are receiving medication do not stop, unless their doctor tells them to do so.

Many people with type 2 diabetes don’t have any symptoms, or won’t notice them right away. In fact, an estimated one million Canadians live with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Signs and symptoms of diabetes can include unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change, extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent infections, cuts or bruises that are slow to heal, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet. It’s important for anyone with these symptoms to speak with their doctor and ask for a diabetes test.

One in two people with type 2 diabetes will die from heart disease (including heart attack or heart failure). In fact, heart disease can occur 15 years earlier in people with diabetes compared to those without. This is because people with type 2 diabetes often have several risk factors for heart disease including problems with blood sugar, blood pressure, poor cholesterol and obesity. But the good news is that the sooner you understand your risk, the sooner you can do something to reduce it.

Blood pressure is a common complication for people with type 2 diabetes. It can lead to damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. Often, there are no symptoms of high blood pressure, which is why people with diabetes should get checked every time they visit their doctor.

Information presented within Cart2Table is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

Cart2Table has been reviewed and approved by Registered Dietitian Caroline Leblanc and Certified Diabetes Educator Naomi Orzech.