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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?


  • Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children, teenagers, young adults and even people in their 30s. It occurs when the pancreas no longer produces insulin, which the body needs to break down sugar for energy. It is treated with insulin. 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced. It often develops in overweight adults. 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs in 2 to 4% of women during pregnancy and usually disappears after the birth of the baby. It can increase the risk of the mother and the baby developing diabetes later in life.



    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

    • If you are 40 or older, have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, ask your doctor to test your blood sugar levels.
    • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian to learn about healthy eating.
    • Work closely with your healthcare team to set goals for your blood glucose and know your target levels.
    • Learn how to monitor your blood sugar and tell your doctor if you cannot keep it in control.
    • Become physically active. Work with your doctor to design a program that's right for you.
    • Visit the Canadian Diabetes Association website for more information or contact your local branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association.


  • Last reviewed August 2009.

    Last modified October 2011.