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When diabetes is left untreated or improperly managed, it can lead to a variety of complications that may affect your body. There are actions you can take to manage your diabetes and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. We sat down with pharmacy manager Mandip Sandhur, B.Sc.Phm, R.Ph, who is also a certified diabetes educator (CDE), for her answers to some common questions about diabetes complications. She says,

As someone who has had gestational diabetes and whose spouse was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his 30s, I understand the importance of diabetes education as an early intervention tool to prevent or delay the progression of long-term complications.

Does having high blood sugar affect my risk of developing complications?

Mandip: Diabetes is a condition in which your body cannot regulate the glucose (sugar) levels in your bloodstream. If your blood sugar remains high (hyperglycemia) over a long period of time, this can lead to potential damage to your body’s tissues and organs. Keeping your blood sugar levels within your target range as much as possible can help to delay or prevent serious complications. Your target range can vary depending on your age, medical conditions, and other risk factors. Pregnant individuals, older adults, and children 12 years of age and under will have different blood sugar targets, which is why it is important to discuss what your levels should be with your healthcare provider.

What are the most common complications that can arise when diabetes is not properly managed?

Mandip: When diabetes is left untreated or improperly managed, it can lead to a variety of complications that may affect your body. Some of the most common complications include eye damage (diabetic retinopathy), kidney disease (nephropathy), heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, mental health issues, nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy), and skin conditions.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to manage your diabetes and reduce the risk of developing diabetes-related complications:

Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and have routine screening for complications as recommended by your healthcare professionals.

Follow healthy dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet and eat low-glycemic (GI) index foods, such as legumes, whole grains, and certain fruits and vegetables like berries and sweet potatoes (all of which may help manage your blood sugar).

Complete 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week (for example, 30 minutes brisk walking, 5 days a week) and resistance exercises 2-3 times a week (for instance, using dumbbell weights or resistance bands).

Manage your stress level and maintain good mental health.

Quit smoking (if applicable).

How often should I be screened for diabetes-related complications?

Mandip: There are different types of screenings that are recommended for diabetes-related complications, including ECG (electrocardiogram), blood work to check A1C and cholesterol levels, foot screening, dilated retinal eye exams to detect eye damage (retinopathy) and kidney screening. The recommended frequency varies depending on the type of screening and whether you are living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Speak to your healthcare professional or diabetes care team if you have any questions about the frequency of your routine screening.

Can diabetes affect pregnancy and result in complications?

Mandip: High blood sugar levels during pregnancy may result in complications for a woman and her baby, such as pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy), low blood sugar levels in the baby (neonatal hypoglycemia), high birth weight, increased risk of birth injury due to the large size of the baby and difficulties during delivery which may require a C-section delivery.

To minimize potential risks for the mother and baby, women living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should work with a diabetes care team to keep their blood sugar levels within the target range during preconception and throughout their pregnancy.

Approximately three to 20 per cent of pregnant women who are not living with diabetes may develop gestational diabetes, which is a type of diabetes that occurs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Both mother and baby may have a higher risk of health conditions later in life, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

There are some steps pregnant women with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes can take to potentially reduce complications, such as maintaining optimal weight gain and blood sugar levels during pregnancy, being physically active, and eating healthy.

What immunizations can help protect me from other complications or diseases?

Mandip: Routine vaccinations are recommended for individuals living with diabetes to protect them against vaccine-preventable diseases. Recommended vaccinations may include annual influenza vaccination (flu shot); COVID-19 vaccinations; pneumococcal vaccinations that can protect against infections, such as pneumonia; herpes zoster vaccination that can protect against the virus that causes shingles and tetanus vaccinations.

Most vaccines are well tolerated with minimal, short-term side effects. Talk to your healthcare professional to determine which vaccines are right for you. Many healthcare professionals, such as your physician or pharmacist, can administer these vaccinations.

What health services are available at my local Walmart to help me manage my diabetes?

Mandip: With 60 per cent of all households in Canada living within a 10-minute drive of a Walmart store, Walmart pharmacists and opticians are some of the most accessible healthcare providers, offering advice and support to help individuals manage their diabetes.

In Walmart pharmacies, pharmacists provide a variety of services including medication reviews. These reviews can help individuals understand their medication regimen, identify, and resolve potential drug related problems, and improve overall health outcomes. You can now schedule a diabetes medication review consultation online at a participating Walmart Pharmacy location (excluding Quebec) by visiting Diabetes Care & Management.  

In Walmart Vision Centres, opticians offer eye health and diabetic retinopathy self-assessments, routine eye exams, affordable options for eyeglasses and contact lenses, and free eyeglass adjustments and repairs.

Individuals can also access education and routine health screenings (including blood pressure and blood sugar screening) during Walmart’s quarterly wellness events, which take place across the country, excluding Quebec. Visit your local Walmart Diabetes Awareness Day event on Saturday, November 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (local time).

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the sponsor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Diabetes Canada.

Author: Walmart Canada

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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