Diabetes Education Program

Patient education

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. If you ignore diabetes it can lead to serious health problems. To diagnose diabetes your doctor can test the amount of glucose in your blood by doing blood work.

Learning positive self management skills can lead to a healthy long life.

Am I at risk?

There are many risk factors that can help assess your risk of developing diabetes.

If you can check one or more of these risk factors, it is important to be tested regularly for type 2 diabetes. *

  • Are you 40 or over?
  • Is there is a family history of diabetes? ( parent, brother or sister with diabetes)
  • Are you a member of a high risk group? (Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian, or African descent)
  • Are you overweight, especially around your abdomen?
  • Do you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Do you have any health complications that are associated with diabetes?
  • Did you give birth to a baby that weighed over 4kg at birth?
  • Did you have gestational diabetes during a pregnancy?
  • Have you ever been told you have pre-diabetes?
  • Have you been diagnosed with any of the following conditions: polycystic ovary syndrome, schizophrenia or Acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin)?

*Adapted from the Canadian Diabetes Association “Are You at Risk”?

Once diagnosed, diabetes can be successfully managed. If left untreated diabetes can result in a variety of health complications.

To be assessed for diabetes, please visit your family physician.

Prevention strategies

A healthy lifestyle that includes eating well following Canada’s Food Guide and being active with regular exercise can delay or prevent the development of diabetes.

Diagnosis & types

In order to diagnose diabetes your doctor must do bloodwork. There are specific blood sugar levels that diagnose diabetes, and these are diagnostic tests:

Fasting blood glucose:
A test result of 7.0mmol/L or greater indicates diabetes (fasting means nothing to eat or drink for at least 8 hours before the test.

Casual blood glucose:
A test result of 11.1mmol/L or greater plus symptoms of diabetes indicates diabetes. This test may be done at any time regardless of when you last ate.

Oral glucose tolerance test:
You are given a special sweet drink prior to the blood test. A test result of 11.1mmol/L or greater taken 2 hours after having the sweet drink indicates diabetes.

A second test must be done in all cases to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

You have just been diagnosed with diabetes, what does that mean?

There are different types of diabetes. Here is a short explanation of the different types. Ask your doctor which type of diabetes you have.

People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for: developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Positive lifestyle changes in the areas of exercise and healthy eating can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes:
People with type 2 diabetes either do not produce enough insulin or their body does not use the insulin properly. Insulin can get lazy over time. This can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes:
People with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin. They must take insulin injections to survive.

Being diagnosed with diabetes can make you feel scared, angry or overwhelmed. These are all normal responses to a new diagnosis. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to family, friends or your diabetes team for support and guidance.

Helpful tips to manage diabetes

Managing diabetes can seem overwhelming especially when you are newly diagnosed. It is important to get in touch with health care professionals such as diabetes nurse educators and dietitians who specialize in diabetes to help get you on track.

Here are a few tips for you to start working on until you meet with your diabetes education team.

We often use the acronym FAME to classify the tips and make them easier to remember.

FAME: Food, Activity, Medication, and Education

All of these areas are an important part of successful diabetes management.

F – Food
Healthy eating is important for everyone. There is no special diet for people with diabetes.

  • Eat 3 regular meals daily, including small snacks between meals if needed.
  • Foods that are high in fibre and low in fat are healthier choices
  • Portion control is part of healthy eating

A – Activity
Increasing your activity level will help to improve blood glucose, weight management and heart health. When starting to increase your exercise start slow and move more. Before starting a new exercise routine check with your doctor. It is recommended that people work up to a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week.

M – Medication
There are different medications that work to help manage blood sugar levels. Some people are able to take pills and other people need to inject insulin. The purpose of medication is to help you successfully manage diabetes. If you have been prescribed medication for diabetes management, it is important to follow the directions.

E – Education
It is important to connect with a diabetes education team to help you learn more about diabetes. The diabetes team can provide you with the most up to date information and support self management.


Diabetes management requires the self care skill of checking your blood glucose level. This is done using a glucose meter. It is important to monitor your blood glucose regularly. More details can be determined with the help of your diabetes education team.

Monitoring provides you with information on how food, activity and medication are affecting your diabetes management.

The Diabetes Education Team can provide you with a meter and teach you how to use it properly.

Foot care

The long-term effects of diabetes — such as decreased sensation, vision and circulation — place patients at a higher risk for serious foot infections and amputation. These foot care tips can help keep the spring in your step:

  • Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling.
  • Wash your feet every day and dry your feet well, especially between the toes.
  • Moisturize your skin, but not between the toes.
  • Never walk barefoot. Wear shoes and socks at all times.
  • Wear properly fitting shoes. Check the length, the width, and the depth.
  • Replace your footwear when they start to look worn – they may not be providing proper foot support.
  • Check inside your shoes every day for pebbles, small objects, or rough edges.
  • Stay active. Keep the blood flowing to your feet by walking at least 30 minutes per day.
  • Visit a chiropodist at least annually.

More resources

Check out these links for more info about living well with diabetes.

Speaker Series webcasts

Watch our videos on YouTube:

The following Speaker Series webcasts have been archived and are currently unavailable. If you're interested in these older webcasts please contact us to let us know.

  • Moving from Mindless to Mindful Eating
  • What to Aim for in Diabetes Care: The New Canadian Guideline
  • Seven Steps to Success
  • Navigating the Diabetes Maze (October 19, 2015)
  • Your Role in Managing Diabetes (November 18, 2014)
  • Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: Mental Health, Exercise and Diabetes in Pregnancy (May 28, 2014)
  • Diabetes Guidelines 2013: Your Essential Guide (October 29, 2013)
  • The Latest in Diabetes: What's Current, New and Coming (October 30, 2012)
  • Just a Touch of Sugar: Diabetes Prevention and Treatment (October 18, 2011)
  • Weighing in on Diabetes (October 26, 2010)
  • Living Well with Diabetes (October 27, 2009)
  • Knowledge is Power: Improving Diabetes Management (October 28, 2008)
  • Diabetes (June 20, 2007)
  • Diabetes: From Head to Toe (May 30, 2006)

Self-management tools »

Try filling out the food diary or blood glucose log sheet before your appointment.

Contact us »

Diabetes Education Program

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

Phone: 416-480-4805
Fax: 416-480-4283

Self-referral »

Patients may self-refer by calling 416-480-4805 between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Patients may also leave a voicemail, and a staff member will return the call. 

You may also download the self-referral form (PDF) and fax it to 416-480-4283.

Physician referral »

Patients may also be referred to the program by their physician. Physicians can fax the physician referral form (PDF) to 416-480-4283.

Appointments »

To book an appointment or speak with a member of the Diabetes Education Team, please call 416-480-4805