World Diabetes Day


World Diabetes DayWorld Diabetes Day occurs each November 14th. It’s a day for global diabetes education and advocacy and a time for learning how to minimize your risk. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 371 million people worldwide live with diabetes (more than 3 million in Canada) and half of us with diabetes don’t even know we have it! Take five minutes today to learn about the risk factors and how to reduce the risk of diabetes for you and your family.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer makes insulin or can’t use the insulin it does make:  the results are raised glucose levels in the blood. There are three types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes usually presents in children or young adults and requires injectable insulin to manage.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs at any age but is generally associated with adults. It can be managed through diet and lifestyle but over time, most people require insulin to manage. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of cases and it is preventable.

Is diabetes serious?

Yes! The IDF notes that in high-income countries, “diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation.” That’s why it’s so important to know the risk factors, symptoms and prevention strategies.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors and symptoms

Type 2 diabetes risk factors include:

  • Being overweight, especially in the mid-section
  • Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Being over 40
  • Lack of daily physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet
    • High blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease
    • Being a member of a high-risk population: Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent
    • History of impaired glucose tolerance (ask your doctor about your lab results)
    • Eye, nerve or kidney problems (these can be evidence of diabetes complications)

Type 2 diabetes symptoms include:

  • Unusual or excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Slow healing cuts and bruises

In some people, diabetes progresses without symptoms – that’s why it’s important to know the risk factors. If you think you’re at risk, talk to your doctor about getting a random or fasting blood sugar test.

The good news about diabetes is that it is preventable. Preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes is possible through lifestyle choices: physical activity, healthy food choices, and weight and stress management. If you’re overweight, you can significantly lower your risk by reducing your body weight by just 5% – 10%.

Tips for reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes

If you’re at risk or have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s time to make some adjustments. This is a big change for many people and can be challenging on both a practical and emotional level. So start small!

Adjust your lifestyle with these four steps:

  1. Become self-aware
  2. Make a plan
  3. Set realistic goals
  4. Manage stress

Build Awareness

  • Know what and how much you’re eating by measuring your portions and checking them against the Canada Food Guide.
  • Make a habit of reading the nutrition label.
  • Be aware of your activity level and make sure your nutritional needs or energy input complements your energy output. Start by determining your current activity level and use this as your baseline.
  • Try using an activity tracker to record your steps each day and track your progress. Fitness Coach Connects is a program available through your EFAP than can help you incorporate more activity into your day, with the help of a personal training coach.
  • Be aware of how you manage stress.

Make a plan

  • Plan your meals and snacks using Canada’s Food Guide or with the help of your EFAP Nutrition Support Services. When you have a plan for your meals and snacks, the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.
  • Plan for exercise. Set an appointment with yourself and mark it in your schedule. Start small and incorporate aerobic exercise like brisk walking, as well as resistance training.
  • If you need to, plan to lose a few inches from your waist. Losing weight can be challenging so include asking for help in your plan.

Set realistic goals

  • Set realistic goals and make only one to two small changes at a time. Before moving onto to include additional changes, make sure you’re comfortable and confident with your current adjustments. A good rule to follow is the SMART plan – Sustainable, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Manage stress

  • In step 1, you became aware of how you currently handle stress. Positive stress management techniques include physical activity, meditation, enjoying your hobbies and getting enough sleep. Set goals to include some stress-management activities in your life.

While diabetes is on the rise, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing it. Your EFAP can help you with lifestyle changes and the emotional turmoil you may be experiencing. Call 1 866 833-7690 or visit

 Thank you to Andrea Bassett for her contribution to this article.

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