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Diabetes: More than just blood sugar


Woman holds child and background reads "let's make time" Diabetes Canada
People with diabetes have an increased risk for other health conditions, but many don't know why.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. This year, the focus is on raising awareness so people can take action against the many health problems that can arise from having diabetes.

You probably know that if you have diabetes or prediabetes, you're at increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and blindness. But do you know why? 

Red blood cells that travel through blood vessels with glucose attached to them cause damage to the walls of those vessels. In people with diabetes, there are more glucose molecules attached. Because of this, the surface of the blood cell becomes “spiky,” and the smaller the vessel gets, the more damage can occur.

When the cells reach tiny blood vessels like the ones that feed nerves and retinas, this damage can be so severe that the blood flow to the area isn’t enough. When this happens, people can develop retinopathy, or visual problems with their eyes, including blindness, and neuropathy, or nerve damage, causing pain, numbness, and the slower healing of wounds, most commonly in the feet and legs.

Another complication of the damage to the blood vessels is that plaques (fatty deposits) can stick to the walls of veins or arteries, causing buildup, resistance to blood flow, and the potential for blocked vessels, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.

This is why managing diabetes is so important. Every action you take to manage your blood sugar through healthy eating, moving more, and keeping track of blood sugars will help improve your length and quality of life.

Things you can do:

  • Make sure half your plate is full of vegetables at every meal
  • Limit sugars and sweeteners
  • Do a manageable amount of exercise each day
  • Learn the facts and reduce your risk

There is no cure for diabetes yet, but you can still make a difference! To learn more, visit Diabetes Canada’s Diabetes Awareness Month website.