The ABCs of living with diabetes

Over 2.5 million Canadians have Type 2 diabetes, and that number could rise to 3.7 million within four years. Add in Type 1 diabetes and prediabetes, says the Canadian Diabetes Association, and over 9 million Canadians are affected. If you're among the number who have been diagnosed with diabetes, you know your ABCs -- and they have nothing to do with the alphabet.

ABC is shorthand for three important numbers that every diabetic monitors:

  • A1c, or the blood test that reveals your blood glucose level over the last three months
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol's three key components: HDL or good cholesterol; LDL or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides

Even if you don't have diabetes, these numbers are important.

The ABCs of living with diabetes


Diabetes means that too much sugar - -or glucose -- is present in your blood, which is exactly what the A1c test measures. The goal here is to keep glucose levels below seven per cent, because too much sugar in the blood can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves. The A1c test gives a review of what glucose levels have been for 90 days, but blood testing before and after meals ensures that those levels stay under control.

Blood Pressure

Diabetic or not, everyone should aim for low blood pressure. An example of good blood pressure is 130/80. The first number measures systolic pressure, the second diastolic pressure. Think of the first as the heart pumping out blood, and the second as the heart refilling with blood.

Blood pressure is even more critical for diabetics, because high blood pressure, also called hypertension, increases the risks of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy.


This is a type of fat in the blood. High density cholesterol, or HDL, fights cardiovascular disease, while LDL increases the risk. Since diabetes itself also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, having high levels of LDL makes the situation much worse.

High levels of triglycerides, the third type of cholesterol, increases the chance of heart attack and stroke. The good news is that moderate exercise and a nutritional diet can help bring triglycerides levels down.

Bottom Line

High measurements of all these factors -- blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol -- can lead to the worst outcomes of diabetes: heart disease. Other health issues can include stroke, blindness, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, and neuropathy. Yet almost all of these factors can be held to safe levels with treatment, diet, and exercise. So monitor your ABCs, and continue to research this condition.

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