Does your loved one or someone you know have diabetes? He or she may be one of the 2.4 million Canadians living with the disease as of 2009, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Diabetes can have a significant impact on quality of life and even longevity, requiring extensive senior care in the form of diet, exercise and lifestyle maintenance. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and Canadians are encouraged to learn about the causes, effects and preventive measures pertaining to diabetes.
Canadian diabetes at an epidemic level
According to a report from the Canadian Diabetes Association, the prevalence of diabetes in the country is growing at an alarming rate. In fact, the report noted that diabetes was reaching a "tipping point" in Canada, with incidences having doubled between 2000 and 2010. It's estimated that by 2020, diabetes will affect around 10 per cent of the population. More shockingly, the report noted that Canadians are actually statistically at higher risk of developing diabetes than are people in other countries. Unfortunately, as the instances of diabetes have risen, so too have the costs associated with treating and managing the illness, making it one of the most expensive chronic conditions on a national level.
Not only is diabetes a significant health risk in and of itself, but the CDA noted that those with diabetes are more likely to suffer from heart disease, kidney failure and even depression than those without diabetes.
The cost of diabetes
As a chronic condition, diabetes can impose a significant cost on not just those with the disease, but their caregivers and family members as well. Most of those with Type 2 diabetes require insulin injections multiple times a day, as well as at-home blood tests to measure glucose levels. Unfortunately, the out-of-pocket expense for such measures seems to be rising, which can have an impact on the effectiveness of treatment. Unfortunately, the Canadian Diabetes Association reported that only 50 per cent of diabetes patients consistently have their glucose levels well-monitored and controlled. What's more, some 57 per cent of Canadians indicated that the main reason they deviate from their prescribed medication and treatment plan is cost-related.
In 2010, diabetes medication and treatment represented an $11.7 billion weight on the Canadian economy, not counting private expenses paid for directly by patients.
How you can help keep diabetes at bay
While diabetes is a complex condition that can arise out of a number of interrelated factors, the PHAC noted that there are certain lifestyle habits that can greatly increase risk. According to Statistics Canada, the over-65 senior population is the most affected by diabetes, with over 885,000 reported cased in 2013 among that age group alone. Aging does represent a natural risk factor for diabetes, but this can be somewhat offset by healthier choices in other areas. PHAC pointed out that adults who are obese are between two and four times as likely to develop diabetes as those who maintain a healthier weight. Tobacco use has also been associated with a higher risk of diabetes, as has a low level of physical activity.
Staving off diabetes, then, is a process of staying as fit, active and healthy as physical condition allows. Regular exercise - even low-intensity activities such as walking - is an essential part of senior care, especially for those who are at a higher diabetes risk. What you eat plays an important role as well. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits and low in processed sugars can help keep senior blood sugar levels low, slowing or preventing the onset of diabetes.