Diabetes epidemic

Diabetes is an increasingly common condition among older Canadians. But even though it poses a threat to many of us as we age, few of us have a thorough understanding of the disease or the serious threat it can pose to our health.This lack of awareness has led the Canadian Diabetes Association to educate the public and lobby federal and  provincial governments to make type 2 diabetes a larger health care priority.

But why should we take it more seriously than the host of other conditions that can afflict us through our lives? Because not only is diabetes  a leading cause of death by disease in Canada, health experts say we’re on the verge of witnessing an explosion of newly diagnosed diabetes cases.

If current trends continue, in the next decade, the number of diabetes  cases is expected to reach three million. Poor dietary habits coupled with lack of exercise mean Canada has more overweight and obese people than ever before. Combine obesity — a major diabetes risk factor — with our aging population — most type 2 cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 45 — and you have the two ingredients behind the expected surge in cases. The Canadian DiabeteAssociation feels proper action needs to be taken to avert a health care crisis. Canadians must learn the diabetes risk factors plus the importance of obtaining an early diagnosis. And governments must direct more resources to diabetes education, care, services and timely access to medicatons and devices.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a life-long condition where the body cannot properly use and store the fuel (sugar) it processes from food. Insulin is the key factor in explaining diabetes. It’s a hormone produced by the pancreas that processes sugar, giving energy to the body.

There are three types of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes the pancreas either does not produce or produces very little insulin. Without insulin, sugar from the food stays in the bloodstream causing blood sugars to rise.

Type 2  diabetes is the main cause of worry, because it accounts for 90 percent of all cases. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin but cannot use it effectively. A third type is gestational diabetes, which may develop during pregnancy.

Managing diabetes
The key to successful management of diabetes lies in managing the highs and lows of blood sugar. Fluctuating blood sugars can slowly damage both the small and large blood vessels in the body, resulting in a variety of complications: heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and impotence.

Today, with new treatments and better education, people with diabetes are able to manage their condition better than ever before. The following are the four components of good management:

  • Meal Planning: What, when and how much you eat determines how well your body manages blood sugar levels.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise helps your body lower blood sugars, promotes weight loss, reduces stress and enhances overall fitness.
  • Medication: Type1  diabetes always requires medication while type 2 diabetes often needs medication to help the body in making or using the insulin more effectively.
    Lifestyle management: Stop smoking and reduce your  stress levels.

Diabetes Report Card
The Canadian Diabetes Association is committed to ensuring that all Canadians have access to the optimum levels of diabetes education, care, services and timely access to medications and devices that are available in this country. Unfortunately, these management tools are still not universally accessible across Canada.

To highlight these disparities, the Canadian Diabetes Association released Diabetes Report Card 2001, the first nation-wide comparison of government diabetes programs and policies across Canada at the provincial, territorial and federal level. Three of the most disturbing trends uncovered by the research are the lack of data about diabetes, the lack of accountability for diabetes programs and services  and the high cost and inequality of access to diabetes-related drugs and supplies.

The Diabetes Report Card 2001 recommends that governments at all levels commit to a strategy such that the medical costs are not a barrier or a burden to managing the disease and also, establish an effective formulary system which is mindful of products providing the best outcomes. By identifying the gaps that exist in diabetes education, care and services, the Canadian Diabetes Association hopes its Report Card will alert health ministers to shortcomings in diabetes health delivery and influence them to put Canadians in a better position to handle the oncoming surge of newly diagnosed diabetes cases.

Help someone you know
The Canadian Diabetes Association plays a leading role in supporting the more than two million Canadians who are directly affected by diabetes through research, education, service and advocacy. Please visit the website (www.diabetes.ca) to learn more about these initiatives.

November is Diabetes Awareness month. Please help the Canadian Diabetes Association help someone you know by becoming a volunteer or making a financial donation.

Call 1-800-BANTING (1-800-226-8464).

Recognizing diabetes
If you are over 45, you are at risk for diabetes and should be tested at least every three years. If you check any of the following, you should be tested for diabetes earlier and/or more often.

  • I have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes.
  • I am overweight.
  • I am a member of a high-risk group (Aboriginal peoples, or of Hispanic, Asian or African descent).
  • I have high cholesterol or other fats in my blood.
  • I gave birth to a baby that weighed over 4 kg (9 lbs) at birth, 
  • I had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy).
  • I have high blood pressure.
  • I have heart disease.

This Special Sponsored Feature was produced by the editors of CARPNews 50Plus in co-operation with the Canadian Diabetes Association.