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Reducing the Risk of Complications

Anyone who has diabetes, may also have other health problems that increase their risk for heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and eye disease. Some of the common complications of diabetes are listed below:

Kidney disease

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage renal (kidney) failure, accounting for 35% of new kidney failure cases in 2006.
  • In 2006, 2,392 patients with diabetes began treatment for end-stage renal disease.
  • In 2006, 8,619 people with end-stage renal disease due to diabetes were undergoing dialysis or had a kidney transplant.

Cardio Vascular Disease

  • Increased risk of developing high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, as diabetes adversely affects the arteries, predisposing them to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis can cause high blood pressure, which if not treated, can lead to blood vessel damage, stroke, heart failure, heart attack or kidney failure.
  • People living with diabetes may also need to take medications to manage cholesterol (lipids) and blood pressure because of increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Heart disease and stroke account for about 2 out of 3 deaths in people with diabetes.

Read more on Cardiovascular Disease


  • Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss in Canadians under 50.
  • Nearly all people with type 1 diabetes and 60% of those with type 2 develop some form of diabetic retinopathy during the first 20 years they have the disease.
  • Over 100,000 people have a vision threatening form of diabetic retinopathy. This number is increasing by over 2500 people per year.

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Other complications

People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses. For example, diabetics may be more likely to die of pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.

Reducing the Risk of Complications

Working with a health care providers can reduce the occurrence of the complications listed above and other diabetes complications by controlling levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and blood lipids, and by ensuring that the person with diabetes receives other preventive care treatments and advice in a timely manner.

Reducing the risk of diabetes complications can be achieved by:

  • not smoking;
  • being physically active in accordance with Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living;
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet in accordance with Canada’s Food Guide
  • monitoring blood glucose levels with daily testing and an A1C blood test every three months;
  • maintaining a healthy cholesterol level;
  • controlling blood pressure;
  • taking care of the feet by regularly examining toes and skin;
  • regular dentist visits;
  • taking care of feet by examining toes and skin every dayhaving;
  • taking care of feet by examining toes and skin every dayhaving;
  • having a kidney function test every 12 months.

For general help and support about types 1, 2 and gestational diabetes in your province, please visit the Canadian Diabetes Association or Diabète Québec .

For information specific to type 1 diabetes, please visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

For information about renal or kidney-related diseases and complications, please visit the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

For information about blindness or vision-related diseases and complications, please visit CNIB

For information about research on diabetes, obesity, nutrition and metabolic disorders, please visit the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.

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