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Glossary of Terms


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ABDOMINAL OBESITY: Fat stored around the abdomen and waist. People with abdominal obesity are at higher risk for diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to heart attack and stroke.


A1C:  A lab test that is done every 3 months. It provides your result in a percentage that indicates your average blood sugar over the past 3 months. For most people, your A1C should be under 7%.


A1C (%)   Average blood glucose (mmol/L)




















BLOOD GLUCOSE: The concentration of glucose in the blood. In Canada, blood glucose is measured in mmol of glucose per litre of blood (mmol/L). The normal range before meals is 4.0 - 6.0 mmol/L, while the normal range two hours after a meal is 5.0 - 8.0 mmol/L.


BLOOD GLUCOSE METER/MONITOR: A hand-held machine designed to test blood glucose levels. A drop of blood (usually from the fingertip) is placed on a small test strip that is inserted into the meter. The meter displays the amount of glucose in the blood. Blood glucose meters allow people with diabetes to play an active role in monitoring their own blood glucose levels.


BLOOD PRESSURE: Blood pressure is expressed using two numbers: the first number is systolic pressure, the pressure caused by the heart pushing blood into the arteries. The second number is diastolic pressure, the pressure when the heart is relaxed and refilling with blood. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetic nephropathy and diabetic retinopathy. To reduce the risk of these complications, people with diabetes should aim for a blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg or lower.


CARDIOLOGIST: A medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions of the heart and blood vessels.


CARBOHYDRATE: One of the main sources of calories. Sources of carbohydrates include starches such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, corn and legumes.  Sources also include sugars naturally found in honey, fruits, vegetables and milk; refined sugars such as table sugar and sugars added to candies, jams and soft drinks. All forms of carbohydrate are broken down into glucose during digestion.


CERTIFIED DIABETES EDUCATOR (CDE): A Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) is a health professional, committed to excellence in diabetes education, who has a sound knowledge base in diabetes care/management and education processes, as well as good communication skills. A CDE has passed the Canadian Diabetes Educator's Certification Board (CDECB) exam.


COMA: A state of unconsciousness. In diabetes, it may result from a variety of causes including severe hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis.


COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTRE (CHC): A Community Health Centre (CHC) is a non-profit, publicly funded organization that provides primary health care from a team of doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, registered dietitians, social workers and community health workers. The multidisciplinary team ensures the patient gets the right care, at the right time, delivered by the most appropriate provider. The focus of a CHC is on health promotion, illness prevention, and community development. 

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DIABETES: A disease in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. This leads to high levels of glucose in the blood, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. See type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.


DIABETES EDUCATION PROGRAM: A program where professionals such as diabetes educators, dietitians, etc. offer classes and consultations.


DIABETES EDUCATOR: A healthcare professional trained to teach patients about diabetes and how to make adjustments to diabetes treatments. He or she may also be trained as a nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, psychologist or other healthcare professional.

DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS: An acute and severe complication of diabetes that is the result of high levels of blood glucose and ketones. It is often associated with poor control of diabetes or occurs as a complication of other illnesses. It can be life threatening and requires emergency treatment. Signs and symptoms include fruity odour on the breath, shortness of breath, confusion, nausea, vomiting and weight loss.


DIABETES NURSE EDUCATOR:  A nurse who has expertise in diabetes, and who teaches and advises people about diabetes care and management. 


DIETITIAN: A healthcare professional who teaches and advises people about the kinds and amounts of foods that promote good health.


ENDOCRINE DISEASE: Any disease of the endocrine system. Diabetes is an endocrine disease because if affects the pancreas, a gland that produces the hormone insulin.


ENDOCRINE SYSTEM: The system of glands in the body that produce hormones.


ENDOCRINOLOGIST: A medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the endocrine system, including diabetes. To access, a referral from your doctor is required.


FAMILY DOCTOR: A medical doctor, often a general practitioner, who looks after the health of the members of a family, keeps their medical histories, and providers referrals.


FAMILY HEALTH TEAM (FHT): A Family Health Team (FHT) is a team of family doctors, registered nurses and other health care providers like dietitians and social workers who can provide ongoing health care. Each team is set up based on local health and community needs, and focuses on chronic disease management, disease prevention and health promotion.

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GASTROPARESIS: A form of nerve damage (neuropathy) that affects the stomach and intestines, causing them to take too long to empty their contents. Diabetes is a major cause of gastroparesis.


GESTATIONAL DIABETES MELLITUS (GDM): Diabetes that is first diagnosed or first develops during pregnancy. It affects 4% to 20% of all pregnancies. Blood glucose levels usually return to normal following delivery. Both mother and child are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


GLUCAGON: A hormone produced by the pancreas that causes an increase in the blood glucose level, and thus has the opposite effect of insulin. Glucagon can also be given by injection to treat severe hypoglycemia.

GLUCOSE: A simple form of sugar that acts as fuel for the body. It is produced from digestion of carbohydrate and carried in the blood to the body’s cells.


GLYCEMIC INDEX: A scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how quickly they raise blood glucose levels.


HYPERGLYCEMIA (also HYPERGLYCAEMIA): Higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood. Symptoms depend on how high the blood glucose level is, but can include thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision and fatigue.


HYPOGLYCEMIA: Lower than normal blood glucose. Symptoms depend on how low the blood glucose level is and include sweating, trembling, hunger, dizziness, moodiness, confusion, headache, blurred vision and nausea.


HYPOTHYROIDISM: A disease in which the production of thyroid hormone is reduced. Symptoms include slow metabolism, tendency to gain weight and fatigue.

INSULIN: A hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin lowers blood glucose by helping move glucose into the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel. 


INSULIN PEN: An injection device the size of a pen that includes a needle and holds a cartridge of insulin. It can be used instead of syringes for giving insulin injections.


INSULIN PUMP: A portable, battery-operated device that delivers a specific amount of insulin through a small needle inserted under the skin. It can be programmed to deliver constant doses of insulin throughout the day and deliver extra insulin at meals and as required. Also called continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII).


INSULIN RESISTANCE: A condition in which the body’s cells and tissues do not respond properly to the effects of insulin. It is a key feature of type 2 diabetes.


INTERNIST: A medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and medical treatment of internal organs, illnesses, diseases, and chronic conditions.

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KETONES: Products created when fat is broken down to be used for energy. The body normally gets rid of excess ketones in the urine. However, if levels of ketones get too high, they accumulate in the body and can lead to ketoacidosis, coma and even death.


LANCET: A fine, sharp-pointed blade or needle for pricking the skin, used to obtain a blood sample for blood glucose testing.


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MOHLTC: The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.


mmol/L: The abbreviation for millimoles per litre. In Canada, blood glucose is measured in mmol/L. To convert mmol/L to mg/dL (the unity of measurement for blood glucose used in the United States), multiply by 18.



NEPHROLOGIST: A medical doctor who specializes in the study, care and treatment of diseases of the kidney.


NEPHROPATHY: Any disease of the kidneys. Nephropathy can be a complication of diabetes.


NEUROPATHY: Any disease of the nerves. Peripheral neuropathy usually causes numbness and/or weakness and/or pain in the hands and feet. Automatic neuropathy causes difficulty with BP control, digestive and sexual control. Neuropathy can be a complication of diabetes.



OPTOMETRIST: A healthcare professional who examines the eyes to detect and treat eye problems and some diseases by prescribing glasses and/or other visual aids. Optometrists are not medical doctors.


OPHTHAMOLOGIST: A medical doctor/surgeon who examines and treats eye problems.

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PEDORTHIST: A certified pedorthist is an orthotic and footwear expert who is trained in the assessment of lower limb anatomy and biomechanics.


PHARMACIST: A healthcare professional who is qualified to dispense medication. A pharmacist can advise about insulin, oral antihyperglycemic agents and other medications, and diabetes supplies such as glucose meters, syringes and lancets.

PODIATRIST: A health care professional who specializes in assessment and treatment of disorders or dysfunctions of the foot.


PREDIABETES: A condition in which a person's blood glucose level is above normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes has no symptoms and can only be diagnosed with a blood test. It is also called impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose. People with prediabetes are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and should take steps to lower these risks.






REGISTERED NURSE PRACTITIONER: A registered nurse with additional expertise who looks after the health of family members.


RETINOPATHY: A disease in which the small blood vessels (capillaries) in the back of the eye (retina) bleed or form new vessels. This condition usually occurs in people with long-standing diabetes. Regular eye examinations are an important part of diabetes management.

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SOCIAL WORKER: A healthcare professional who can cares for people with social or emotional problems. Social workers are often members of the diabetes healthcare team.


TYPE 1 DIABETES: An autoimmune disease that occurs when the pancreas no longer produces any insulin or produces very little insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood or adolescence and affects approximately 10% of people with diabetes. There is no cure. It is treated with lifelong insulin injections and careful attention to diet and physical activity. Formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes.


TYPE 2 DIABETES: A disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the body's needs and/or the body is unable to respond properly to the actions of insulin (insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes usually occurs later in life (although it can occur in younger people) and affects approximately 90% of people with diabetes. There is no cure. It is treated with careful attention to diet and exercise and usually also diabetes pills (oral antihyperglycemic agents) and/or insulin. Formerly called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes.














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