November is Diabetes awareness month. Over the last 10 years, diabetes rates in Alberta have almost
doubled. As a result, over 205,000 people in Alberta are living with diabetes
(www.albertadiabeteslink.ca) and many more are pre-diabetic, meaning they are at an increased risk
for developing this disease in the future. There are 3 types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational.
Type 1 Diabetes, also called Insulin-Dependent Diabetes, is caused when the pancreas produces little or
no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows sugar (also known as glucose) to enter the cells to produce
energy. Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, but it can also be
diagnosed in adulthood. The only treatment at present for Type 1 diabetics is insulin injections of insulin
to regulate blood sugar as well as diet and lifestyle changes to minimize the risk of complications.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, accounting for 90% of diagnosed diabetes cases in Canada. It
is often diagnosed in mid to late adulthood. However, diagnosis rates have been rising in the younger
generation. Type 2 diabetes occurs most often as a result of being overweight, a lack of exercise,
genetic factors and increasing age. It is also important to note that not everyone who has type 2
diabetes is visibly overweight. If left untreated, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can cause debilitating
complications such as kidney disease, amputations, eye problems, impaired healing and diabetic
neuropathy (decreased or lack of feeling in your feet) among other symptoms.
Gestational Diabetes is the 3 rd type of diabetes. It is diagnosed during pregnancy affecting up to 20% of
pregnant women according to the Diabetes Canada website. Gestational diabetes occurs when a non-
diabetic woman develops diabetes during pregnancy. According to Wikipedia, risk factors include being
over the age of 35, overweight, previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes, a family history of type 2
diabetes as well as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). In Canada, women are screened for gestational
diabetes during the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy ( www.diabetes.ca ). A healthy diet and exercise are
used to control blood sugar and, in some cases, medication may be used to control blood sugar levels.
Your family physician will recommend a treatment program for you should you develop gestational
diabetes. This type of diabetes has the potential to reverse itself once the mother gives birth.
Gestational diabetes complications vary from Type 1 and 2 diabetes in that the disease is potentially
harmful to both mom and baby. The baby may have a high birth weight, born premature, are at risk for
respiratory problems at birth and a higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes later in life. The mother may suffer
from complications such as high blood pressure, be at a higher risk for a cesarean section as well as an
increased risk for diabetes with subsequent pregnancies and later in the mother’s lifetime.
A diagnosis of diabetes requires individuals to take blood sugar levels on a regular basis. Ideally, a fasting
blood sugar level is between 4.0 and 7.0 millimoles per litre is considered normal in most adults. Fasting
blood sugar levels above this range are cause for concern. Your doctor will closely monitor your blood
sugar levels. Diet changes and weight management are important for controlling this disease and the
least invasive treatments available. However, your doctor may prescribe an oral drug or an insulin
injection to control your blood sugars. Type 2 diabetes has the potential to be reversed through diet
changes and weight management. Our doctors at Imagine Health Centers have a wide breadth of
experience with diabetes management and are even able to help reverse diabetes with certain patients.
Our new MD Weight Loss program has helped many patients lose weight and reverse diseases such as
diabetes and hypertension. The program is funded by Alberta Health Care with no costs for visits. If you
or one of your loved ones are interested, speak with your family physician to have a referral sent to “MD
Weight Loss”, fax 403-910-0449, located at Imagine Health Centers MacLeod Trail South.