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Are you at risk for diabetes?

RandallAnthony CommunicationsComment

If you know, you have the power to change your future

Kimberley Rickard was tired, all the time. It was hard just to walk across the parking lot to her office in Fredericton, New Brunswick. “I was doing less and less, and I didn’t realize how much the extra weight was slowing me down.”

In November of last year, she read an article in a local paper about Alison Toron, a health coach with Live Well! Bien Vivre!, a free wellness program offered by the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) in partnership with the Medavie Health Foundation and the Government of New Brunswick. Ms. Toron recommended the two-minute CANRISK type 2 diabetes risk assessment. After taking the test, Ms. Rickard learned that she wasn’t just tired – she was at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. “My mother has it, and she has not had a good quality of life. I could see I wasn’t going to be any good to help her as she ages if I didn’t take care of myself.”

One-on-one coaching sessions with Ms. Toron helped her put an effective plan in place and overcome some ingrained “all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking” that had previously held her back, says Ms. Rickard. “It was never negative – just positive and encouraging.”

Down more than 63 pounds, she says she feels fantastic and “can’t stop smiling.” In addition to lowering her risk of type 2 diabetes from high to medium (her goal is to reduce it to low) she says her new lifestyle has also increased her self-esteem and confidence. “I put myself and what’s good for me first now.”

John Farrell of Ottawa has similar health priorities these days. When his 21-year-old son Ryan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight years ago, John made it his mission to learn everything he could about the disease. But until a few months later, when he had a checkup and learned he had prediabetes, John was unaware he was also at risk.

He had been athletic in high school, but as a bank manager, he spent long hours at his desk. “I’d just become sedentary,” he says. “I had some bad habits.”

After his diagnosis, John changed his diet, using the knowledge he’d gained doing research on Ryan’s behalf, and made exercise a priority. “Walking led to jogging, jogging led to running. Each step became easier as my body became more conditioned. I dropped 50-some pounds within about eight months,” he reports.

Together, John and Ryan began running in 5K and 10K events, and then in half-marathons. They joined Team Diabetes, the CDA’s national activity-based fundraising program, in 2012 and have collected more than $10,000 in donations from friends and co-workers, some of which has been matched by John’s employer.

“Ryan and I have participated in more than 10 half-marathons together, and he was my coach for my first two marathons,” says John. Along the way, he adds, “Team Diabetes has been there with support, information and on-course encouragement.”

Before his diagnosis, “I couldn’t run across the street without wheezing. I can now run 42.2 kilometres.” Even more importantly, John’s blood glucose (sugar) is now at normal levels.

The number of people living with diabetes in Canada has doubled in the last 12 years. That growth rate continues as another Canadian is diagnosed every three minutes. “Today, there are an estimated 10.7 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes,” says Rick Blickstead, president and CEO of the CDA.

But with awareness, it is possible to create a different future, he stresses. “It is critical that people know that, with early diagnosis, they can take action to stay healthy.

“It is a 24/7 disease that takes a lot of self-management. Its complications account for 30 per cent of strokes, 40 per cent of heart attacks, 50 per cent of kidney dialysis, 70 per cent of non-traumatic amputations and it is a leading cause of blindness. It’s so important to avoid getting it if you can.”

By investing two minutes in the type 2 diabetes risk test, and seeing a doctor if you’re at risk, “you’re taking control of your life,” says Mr. Blickstead. “It may be through exercise, it may be through diet – for some people it’s through medication. But the first step to building a healthier life is to take the test.”

More than 63,000 people have already taken the risk assessment at take2minutes.ca so far this fall, and the organization has challenged its Twitter followers @DiabetesAssoc to take the test and pass it along by tagging two of their friends to see who can make the longest chain.

“It’s about one person helping another person, or two people, who can help someone else, to create a massive explosion of opportunity,” says Mr. Blickstead.

View entire report on globeandmail.com