Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), coronary artery disease and stroke, particularly if your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled. It can also result in circulation problems caused by damage to the blood vessels.
Women with diabetes are much more likely to have heart attacks, angina (chest pain) or heart surgery than men with diabetes. Although the cause is not fully understood, it may have something to do with the interaction of female hormones with blood sugar and insulin.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes develops when your body does not produce enough insulin, or when your body does not effectively use the insulin that it does produce. Your body needs insulin to break down sugar for energy.
What are the types of diabetes?
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is when blood glucose levels are almost as high as with diabetes. It is sometimes called Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) or Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG).
Prediabetes does not mean you have diabetes. However, it may indicate an increased risk for developing diabetes in the future. If you are told you have prediabetes, talk with your doctor about how frequently your blood glucose should be tested.
Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as controlling weight, eating a healthy diet and being physically active can help prevent developing diabetes.
Who is at risk of diabetes and who should be tested?
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in people under 30, most often in children and teenagers. It’s usually caused by an autoimmune reaction – the body attacks its own pancreatic cells for unknown reasons. This reduces the amount of insulin produced by the body. It is not caused by eating too much sugar. There is no safe and effective prevention of type 1 diabetes at this time.
Type 2 diabetes is more common in people over the age of 40. But, unfortunately, it is now being seen in younger people, even children. Most of these children are from ethnic groups that are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes particularly the Aboriginal, Hispanic, African and Asian populations.
People over 40 should have their fasting blood glucose checked every three years to screen for diabetes. If you have one or more of the following risk factors for diabetes, then your blood glucose should be checked more frequently. Also, all pregnant women should be screened between 24 and 28 weeks gestation or earlier if they have one or more of the following risk factors.
While you can’t change your age or genetic background, you can eliminate or control many risk factors through a healthy lifestyle and if needed, medications. Reducing risk factors will decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and the complications of heart disease and stroke.
What can I do to reduce my risk?
If you have diabetes, the best way to reduce the impact it can have on your health is by controlling your other risk factors :
Last reviewed: August 2013