More than 10 million Canadians are currently living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, and an estimated one million are living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. These staggering numbers are increasing rapidly – more than 480 people in Canada are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every single day. In fact, the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) says that if rates continue to grow at the current pace, one-third of Canadians will have diabetes by 2020.
It is a disease with enormous social, economic and personal costs: People living with diabetes account for 30 per cent of strokes, 40 per cent of heart attacks, 50 per cent of kidney dialysis and 70 per cent of non-traumatic amputations. It is also one of the leading causes of blindness.
Nine out of 10 Canadians with diabetes have type 2, a disease in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced is not used effectively by the body. Glucose that would otherwise be used for energy then builds up in the blood. Over time, this high blood glucose (sugar) can lead to devastating long-term complications, such as those mentioned above. (Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s autoimmune system attacks and kills the beta cells in the pancreas, destroying the body’s ability to produce insulin.)
Pre-diabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Research has shown that complications such as heart disease and nerve damage may begin during pre-diabetes, so it is important to get tested. About half of people with pre-diabetes will go on to develop the disease. But addressing it early by prioritizing healthy eating and exercise – and by taking medication if your doctor advises – can delay or even prevent its onset.
The CDA has developed a free, two-minute online risk assessment that has already been taken by tens of thousands of people across Canada. If you find you are at risk, making an appointment with your doctor for further testing is the essential first step toward a healthier life.
Building a healthier future
The Canadian Diabetes Association provides the following advice on preventing type 2 diabetes:
- Eat healthy meals and snacks, including the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces your risk.
- Enjoy regular physical activity.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes:
- Follow your doctor’s advice to keep your blood glucose levels within the target range.
- In addition to eating a healthy diet, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight, monitor your blood glucose at home as directed by your health-care provider.
- If your doctor prescribes diabetes medications, take as directed. Your pharmacist can help you ensure you always have your medications on hand and can help you address any concerns.
- Learn to manage stress effectively.
- Contact the Canadian Diabetes Association in your community for support.