Diabetes: Don’t Sugar Coat It!
What to Know – and Do – About Type 2
Diabetes causes high blood sugar levels due to the body not producing enough insulin, or not properly using the insulin it does produce. This article focuses on Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as the lifestyle-related or preventable type.
You likely know someone who is impacted by diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease affecting the lives of 29% of Canadians and rates continue to climb. By 2029, almost a third of us (over 13 million people) may be affected.
1.5 million Canadians affected by diabetes don’t even know they have it. It’s important to know the signs, and contact your healthcare provider if you have any of them, so you aren’t one of those undetected cases.
According to Diabetes Canada, the most common signs and symptoms of diabetes include:
- unusual thirst
- frequent urination
- weight change (gain or loss)
- extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- blurred vision
- frequent or recurring infections
- cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- trouble getting or maintaining an erection
An Ounce of Prevention
Despite the rising rates of diabetes, there is hope. You can modify many risk factors for Type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes.
Unfortunately, our habits are falling short. 46% of Canadians are living inactive lifestyles. 60% are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, 35% of adults are overweight, and 18% of the population smokes.
It’s time to make changes for diabetes prevention (and management). Start with these five actions to help fight the rise of Type 2.
1. Have regular check-ups.
If you’re over the age of 40 you should be tested for diabetes every three years. If you have diabetes, regularly seeing your healthcare team is critical for management.
2. Get informed. Know your risk.
Get informed. Diabetes Canada has many resources and can be a good first step. Try Canrisk, The Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire, and find out your risk for diabetes. Knowing if you are at risk can help you make healthy choices for yourself.
3. Get active or stay active.
Regular exercise can lower your blood sugar as effectively as some medications, with fewer side effects.According to the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week and resistance exercises (using weights or body weight as resistance) two to three times a week.
If you’re not currently exercising, start slowly and work your way up. See a healthcare professional first if you haven’t been active for a while.
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
Losing even a little bit of weight (5-7%) can help prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Looking at your food habits is crucial to weight loss and control. Limit processed foods, pay attention to portion sizes, eat at consistent intervals, eat fruits and vegetables, limit sugars and sweets, stay hydrated, and enjoy healthy carbs. A registered dietitian can help with specific dietary advice and meal planning to achieve your goals.
Check out the Canada Food Guide for added information on eating well.
5. Manage your stress.
Your blood sugar levels go up when you’re stressed. While there is no one way to manage stress, there are healthy ways to cope. Take a trial and error approach to find what suits you best. Keep an open mind. Daily exercise and activities like yoga, meditation and tai chi can help relieve stress. Mental health professionals can help with support and approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Making lifestyle changes can be difficult and confusing. Enlisting expert help not only helps ensure a healthy approach to change, but can provide motivation and support to help you be successful.