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Back Behind the Wheel: Diabetes – A Trucker’s Disease

Diabetes is a disease that affects approximately eight per cent of all Canadians. Yet it's a condition that can be managed effectively, preventing many of the serious complications associated with it....

Diabetes is a disease that affects approximately eight per cent of all Canadians. Yet it’s a condition that can be managed effectively, preventing many of the serious complications associated with it.

Diabetes is the result of the body’s inability to produce insulin and/or effectively use the insulin that it produces, which results in elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas to aid in the transfer of sugar (glucose) from the blood into the body’s cells, and is indirectly responsible for monitoring/controlling blood glucose levels. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, which provides the “fuel” for our body. The energy (sugar) that is derived from our foods stays in the blood and it has to enter the cell before it can be used. Insulin is the hormone that “unlocks” the cell and allows sugar from the blood to enter it. Insulin is very important. Without it, the cells in our body cannot receive the “fuel” they need to function.

Insulin production and blood glucose levels are intimately related. This relationship is responsible for maintaining a blood glucose concentration in the body. An increase in blood glucose will result in an increased secretion of insulin to counterbalance the influx of glucose in order to normalize and maintain your blood glucose levels. It is very important that diabetics monitor their blood glucose level on a regular basis. If there is too much glucose in the blood, it can lead to kidney failure, heart disease, blindness, impotence and amputation.

Unfortunately, many diabetics do not realize the severity of their condition. These changes occur slowly and can be irreversible. Many diabetics are unaware of these physical changes that can occur and do not experience any type of pain, until it is too late.

There are three types of diabetes, Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes has also been known as insulin dependent or juvenile diabetes. Individuals who have this type of diabetes produce too little or no insulin at all. Since the body does not produce enough or any insulin, Type 1 diabetics have to have multiple daily insulin injections. Their diet has to be carefully planned to monitor glucose intake, and physical activity has to be also planned to ensure that blood glucose levels are stable throughout any activity. Being physically active requires more energy, so Type 1 diabetics must be careful that their insulin/glucose levels are adequate to be able to supply the energy the body requires. The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown.

Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance (a condition where the body fails to properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency. This type of diabetes is also previously known as non-insulin dependent or adult onset diabetes. Type 2 diabetics produce insulin (sometimes not enough), but their body does not respond to it normally.

Approximately 90-95 per cent of Canadians diagnosed with diabetes are diagnosed with Type 2. Although there is no single cause for Type 2 diabetes, it is believed to be associated with obesity, age (over 45) and/or a genetic predisposition. Treatment of this type of diabetes involves exercising on a regular basis, eating a balanced diet, monitoring your blood glucose levels and for some, oral medications and/or insulin injections.

Here is a list of symptoms that are commonly seen in diabetics: frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, sudden vision changes, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, very dry skin, sores that are slow to heal and more infections than usual. If you have any or several of these symptoms, visit your health professional so the necessary tests can be done to determine whether or not you have diabetes. Do not ignore these symptoms. Although these symptoms are not specific to diabetes, they may be an indication for various other health conditions which may be serious.

Can diabetes be prevented? A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Research is being conducted, trying to identify the exact genetics and “triggers” that predispose some individuals to develop Type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, for Type 1 diabetics, prevention strategies as well as a cure, still remain elusive.

Diabetes is a condition that is very common and that can be managed successfully. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in North America can be attributed to our diet and lack of exercise. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can dramatically decrease your chances of becoming diabetic. It is a condition that can be avoided for some. Although there is a genetic component associated with it, lifestyle and environmental factors play a large part in the development of the disease.

Until next month, take care and drive safely.

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 888-252-7327, or online at

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