Abdominal Obesity

A pattern of weight gain where most of the body’s fat is stored around the abdomen and waist. This increases your risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Acanthosis Nigricans

A skin disorder that causes thickening of skin and the appearance of dark patches of skin, particularly on the back of the neck, the groin, and in the armpits. It may be a sign of insulin resistance.


Albumin is a type of protein produced in the liver. A high level of albumin in the urine of people with diabetes is an early sign of kidney damage.


Cells found in your pancreas that are responsible for producing glucagon when your blood sugar levels are low.


An artificial sweetener that does not contain carbohydrates and will not cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Sold under the brand names Equal and NutraSweet.

Autoimmune Disease

A disease in which a person’s own immune system attacks the body’s tissues. Type 1 diabetes is an example of an autoimmune disease where the person’s antibodies attack and destroy the beta-cells of their pancreas.



Cells found in your pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin when your blood sugar levels are rising.

Blood Glucose

The concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood. In Canada it is measured in mmol/L. The normal range before meals is 4.0-6.0 mmol/L, and the normal range two hours after a meal is 5.0-8.0 mmol/L

Blood Glucose Meter/Monitor

A handheld device used to test blood glucose levels. A small drop of blood, usually from the fingertip, is placed on a strip that is inserted into the device. The meter displays the amount of glucose in the blood allowing people with diabetes to have an active role in the management of their blood glucose levels. It is important to wash your hands before you use a blood glucose meter for accurate results.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

A tool used to compare weight to height and risk for chronic disease. It classifies people as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. It does not take into account body composition and is used as a guideline for assessing risk.



A protein formed in the beta-cells of the pancreas. C-peptide levels are used as a test to determine how well the beta-cells function.


The unit used to measure energy in food. Calories in the diet come from carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol.


Carbohydrates are the part of food that our bodies turn into sugar when they are digested. When these foods are eaten they will affect your blood sugar levels. Foods that contain carbohydrates include, grain products, fruits and vegetables, milk, and refined sugars.


A physician that specializes in the study, care, and treatment of the heart.

Cardiovascular Disease

A general term for any disease of the cardiovascular system (all arteries, veins, and blood vessels in the body). People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

A healthcare professional trained to teach patients about diabetes and how to manage it. Diabetes educators can be dietitians, nurses, pharmacists or other healthcare professionals.


A type of fat that is naturally found in the body. It is also found in the diet when animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) are consumed. Abnormal levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. See Also: Total Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, Triglycerides


The presence of one or more disorders/diseases in addition to a primary condition. For example people with diabetes (primary condition) also often have high blood pressure (comorbidity)

Continuous Glucose Monitor

A blood glucose monitor with a small sensor that is inserted under the skin. It automatically checks blood glucose levels every few minutes.

Creatinine Clearance Test

A urine test to measure how well the kidneys are working. People with diabetes should have a creatinine clearance test every 6-12 months.


An artificial sweetener that does not contain carbohydrates and will not cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Sold under the brand names Sucaryl, Sugar Twin, and Sweet ‘n Low. It is recommended by Health Canada that pregnant women avoid cyclamate.



Another type of sugar (glucose). Dextrose/Glucose tablets are often used to treat mild hypoglycemia.


A disease where the pancreas cannot produce a hormone called insulin, or cannot properly use the insulin it produces, or a combination of both. This causes the level of sugar in the blood to rise, which can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves. See Also: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Gestational Diabetes.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

An acute and severe complication of diabetes that is the result of high levels of blood glucose and ketones. Excess ketones can make your blood acidic and cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, and fruity smelling breath. If left untreated the excess ketones can lead to coma or death. DKA is a medical emergency and should be treated in a hospital. If your blood ketone levels are above a 3.0 go to the Emergency Room immediately.

Diabetic Nephropathy

Kidney disease caused by diabetes. End-stage kidney disease is treated with hemodialysis or kidney transplant.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Nerve damage caused by diabetes, usually causing numbness, weakness, and/or pain in the hands and feet.

Diabetic Retinopathy

A disease in which the small blood vessels at the back of the eye (the retina) bleed or form additional vessels, which can lead to poor vision and blindness. It is seen more often in people with long-standing diabetes. Regular eye examinations are an important part of diabetes management.


A registered healthcare professional that educates people about the kinds and amounts of food to promote good health and in the treatment of disease.


Abnormal levels of lipids in the blood.


Endocrine System

The system of glands in our body that are responsible for producing hormones.


A physician who specializes in the study, care, and treatment of diseases of the endocrine system.

Exercise Electrocardiogram (ECG) Stress Test

A test used to measure how the heart responds to physical effort. It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike while the heart and blood pressure are monitored. It is used to identify heart problems, check the effectiveness of heart medications and help people plan a safe exercise program.



The most concentrated source of calories in our diet. Fat is an important part of a healthy diet, but must be included in moderation as too much fat can increase the risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.


The part of plant foods that our bodies’ cannot digest and use for energy. Eating more fibre can help improve blood glucose control, cholesterol levels, and help with weight management. Sources of fibre include whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.


A simple sugar found in many foods such as honey, fruits, and some vegetables. Fructose in foods will affect your blood glucose levels.



The death or decay of body tissues, usually due to loss of blood supply to the affected area, which may be followed by bacterial infection. It is often seen as a complication following diabetic neuropathy.

Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes that is first diagnosed or first develops during pregnancy. It affects 2% to 4% 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.


A hormone produced by the pancreas that causes an increase in blood glucose levels. Glucagon can also be given by injection to treat severe hypoglycemia.


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

Glycemic Index

A scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels.


The main storage form of carbohydrates in the liver and muscles. It is easily broken down into glucose for use as energy when needed.


The presence of high levels of glucose in the urine, it can indicate abnormally high blood sugar levels and is a sign of diabetes.


HDL Cholesterol (HDL-C)

A type of cholesterol that is involved in transporting cholesterol and other lipids from the body. It is sometimes called “good” or “healthy” cholesterol because high levels of HDL can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.


A method of removing waste products or poisons from the blood. This treatment is used for patients whose kidneys are failing.

Hemoglobin A1c

A measure of the blood glucose levels over the previous 120 days. People with diabetes should have their A1C measured approximately every three months.


A substance produced in one part of the body that is released into the bloodstream and travels to other organs or tissues where it acts to change their structure or function. For example, insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that travels throughout the body and affects the cells’ and tissues’ ability to use glucose for energy.

Human Insulin

A synthetic form of insulin created in the 1990s using recombinant-DNA technology.


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


High blood pressure. Hypertension is classified as a blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg.


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

Hypoglycemia Unawareness

A condition where a person does not feel or recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar. People who have frequent episodes of hypoglycemia may no longer feel the warning signs of low blood glucose and are at high risk of severe hypoglycemia.


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



Insulin is a hormone made by the beta-cells of your pancreas that acts like a key to your cells allowing sugar in to them to be used for energy.

Insulin Analogue

Insulin that is made chemically as a modification of human insulin. Analogues include insulin lispro, insulin aspart, insulin glargine and insulin detemir.

Insulin Lipodystrophy

The loss of fatty tissue that can occur as a result of repeated insulin injections in the same area. To avoid this condition it is important to properly rotate insulin injection sites.

Insulin Pen

An injection device the size and shape of a pen that includes a needle and holds a vial 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 tube inserted under the skin. It can be programmed to deliver constant doses of insulin throughout the day and/or deliver extra insulin as required. Also called continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII).

Insulin Receptors

Areas on the outer walls of a cell that permit insulin to bind to the cell. When cells and insulin bind together, the cell is able to take glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy.

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.

Islet Cells

Cells found in the pancreas, also known as the Islets of Langerhans, these cells contain the alpha- and beta-cells which produce glucagon and insulin.

Islet Transplantation

Removal of the insulin-producing beta (islet) cells from a donor pancreas and placement of the cells into a person with type 1 diabetes. Several centres in Canada offer islet cell transplants to carefully selected people with type 1 diabetes. Although initial results are encouraging, the procedure is still in the research stage, and patients require lifelong drugs to prevent their bodies from rejecting the donor cells.




In cases where your body cannot use the sugar in your blood to produce energy, such as uncontrolled diabetes, your body will break down fats for energy, which produces substances called ketones. Ketones are normally excreted in urine, however if their levels rise too high they can build up and cause ketoacidosis. See Also: Diabetic Ketoacidosis



A fine, sharp-pointed needle, used to obtain a blood sample for blood glucose monitoring.

LDL Cholesterol (LDL-C)

Particles that carry cholesterol in the blood and around the body for use by cells. LDL-C is commonly known as “bad” cholesterol because high levels of LDL-C lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Because most people with diabetes are at very high risk of heart disease, it is very important to achieve recommended LDL-C targets (2.0 mmol/L or lower for most people with diabetes). This usually requires medication.


Fats that are produced naturally in humans and animals or that are added to certain foods. Abnormal levels of certain lipids, such as cholesterol, triglyceride and trans fatty acids, are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.


Macrovascular Complication

Complications of diabetes relating to the large blood vessels in the body that usually occur in people with long-standing diabetes. Macrovascular complications include heart disease and stroke.

Macular Edema

A swelling in the macula, an area near the centre of the retina, the part of the eye that is responsible for fine or reading vision. People with diabetes are at higher risk of macular edema.

Metabolic Syndrome

A combination of medical problems that increase risk of heart disease and diabetes. People with metabolic syndrome have some or all of the following: high blood glucose, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high triglycerides and insulin resistance.


The sum of all the chemical changes that take place in the body that generate energy and allow tissues and cells to grow, function, use nutrients and eliminate waste.


The abbreviation for milligrams per deciliter. In the United States, blood glucose is expressed in mg/dL. To convert mg/dL to mmol/L (the unit used in Canada), divide by 18.

Microvascular Complications

Complications involving the small blood vessel, that usually occur in people with long-standing diabetes. Microvascular complications include complications of the eyes (retinopathy), kidneys (nephropathy), and nerves (neuropathy).


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


A synthetic thread used to test for nerve damage in the foot. A healthcare provider gently touches the sole of the person’s foot with the monofilament, and the person is asked to say when he or she feels it. People with diabetes should have a monofilament test at least once a year.

Monounsaturated Fat

‘Good’ fats that are found in foods such as nuts, avocados, canola oil, grape seed oil and olive oil.

Multiple Daily Injections (MDI)

As part of intensive diabetes management, several insulin injections are given per day, including injections of rapid-acting insulin before each meal, as well as injections of long-acting insulin.

Myocardial Infarction

A heart attack.



A physician that specializes in the study, care and treatment of diseases of the kidney.

Nocturnal Hypoglycemia

Low blood glucose levels occurring at night, generally during sleep. Signs of nocturnal hypoglycemia are low pre-breakfast blood glucose levels; nightmares or seizures during the night; impaired thinking, sluggishness or headache in the morning.


Normal, healthy, blood glucose levels.



A build-up of excess fat tissue on the body. Obesity is classified as a BMI over 30, and greatly increases your risk for developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3 Fat

A polyunsaturated fat found in oily fish and some plant sources, such as seeds and nuts. A diet rich in omega-3 fats is believed to help improve cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.


A medical doctor that specializes in the study, treatment, and care of the eyes.


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.

Oral Antihyperglycemic Agent (OHA)

Oral antihyperglycemic agents are pills taken for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. For more information on the different OHAs click here

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

A test to measure the body’s ability to break down and use carbohydrates. It is used to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes. A standard dose of glucose as a drink is given and blood glucose levels are measured at regular intervals (usually fasting, one hour and two hours after drinking the glucose drink).



The pancreas is an organ in your body that produces several hormones including insulin and glucagon. It also has an important role in digesting food.


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.


A healthcare professional who studies, diagnoses and treats disorders of the feet.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

A condition characterized by obesity, menstrual problems, enlarged ovaries and insulin resistance. It is a leading cause of infertility. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Polyunsaturated Fat

“Good” fats found in grain products, fish (such as herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut), seafood, soybeans and fish oil.


After a meal.


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.


One of the major sources of calories in a diet. Found in meats, eggs, milk and some vegetables and starches, protein provides the body with material for building body tissue, blood cells and hormones.





An artificial sweetener that does not contain carbohydrates and will not cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Sold under the brand name Hermesetas.

Saturated Fat

The ‘bad’ fat found in foods such as butter, lard, coconut oil, dairy products (especially cream and cheese) and meat. A diet that is too high in these fats increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose (SMBG)

Blood testing done by the person with diabetes with a blood glucose meter/monitor to determine how much glucose is in the blood. SMBG helps people with diabetes and their healthcare professionals make decisions about their medications, diet and exercise in order to achieve good blood glucose control.

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.


A major component of salt. Diets high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure. People with diabetes and/or high blood pressure are encouraged to limit the amount of sodium in their diet.


A type of medication used to lower LDL cholesterol levels.


The sudden interruption in the flow of blood to the brain. Depending on the severity of the stroke and the brain area it affects, it can cause paralysis, weakness, vision and speech problems. People with diabetes are at high risk of stroke.


An artificial sweetener that does not contain carbohydrates and will not cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Unlike some other sweeteners it is not destroyed when heated and can therefore be used in cooking and baking. Sold under the brand name Splenda.


A simple carbohydrate that provides calories and raises blood glucose levels.


Total Cholesterol

The combined measurement of all types of cholesterol in the blood.

Total Cholesterol to HDL-C Ratio

The proportion of HDL-C to total cholesterol. The recommended TC/HDL-C ratio for most people with diabetes is less than 4.0.

Trans Fat

Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some foods, but most trans fats are from ingredients added to fast foods, prepackaged snack and convenience foods, baked goods and restaurant meals. Trans fats raise LDL (’bad’) cholesterol levels and lower of HDL (’good’) cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Everyone should limit the amount of trans fat they eat.


The main component of vegetable oil and animal fats. In the human body, high levels of triglycerides raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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, however it can develop later in adulthood, 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.



A break in the skin or a deep sore. People with diabetes may get ulcers from minor scrapes on the feet or legs, from cuts that heal slowly, or from the rubbing caused by shoes that do not fit well. Ulcers can become infected and lead to serious problems such as gangrene and amputation.

Unsaturated Fat

The “good” fat found in foods, such as avocado, nuts, and soybean, canola and olive oils. Substituting saturated fats with unsaturated fats helps to lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL (’bad’) cholesterol.

Urine Tests

Tests to measure levels of substances such as glucose or ketones in the urine.


Vascular Disease

Any disease of the blood vessels.


Waist Circumference

A measurement of waist size, taken around the abdomen just above the hipbones. A waist circumference of 102 cm (40 inches) or more in men and 88 cm (35 inches) or more in women is associated with increased health risks.