Even after four months of constant thirst, frequent trips to the bathroom, and soreness in his arms and legs, Bubba Vermette simply shrugged and told himself there was nothing unusual going on.
“I thought I was as tough as nails, nothing can bother me,” recalls Mr. Vermette, a resident of Lethbridge, Alta., and owner of Bubba’s Lawn Mowing and Snow Shoveling Service. “But one night at a restaurant I pretty much drank a whole jug of iced tea in one sitting, and my father-in-law told me: you should get tested.”
Two weeks later he did, and learned he had type 2 diabetes. The news was a huge shock for Mr. Vermette, who worked out regularly and took pride in his fit physique. But after an initial bout of depression – which led to months of physical inertia and a weight gain of more than 80 pounds – Mr. Vermette decided to start living a healthier lifestyle and managing his diabetes.
“I joined a weight loss program,” says Mr. Vermette, who now does a 100-kilometre walk each year to raise funds for diabetes research and increase awareness of the disease for the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA). “I also started walking around the block, up and down the sidewalk.”
Mr. Vermette, who has now raised more than $2,000 through his walks, is among the more than 2.9 million Canadians with type 2 diabetes – a condition that occurs when the body can’t make enough insulin or is unable to properly use the insulin it produces. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, affecting about 90 per cent of people diagnosed with the disease.
Many people with diabetes can also develop complications such as heart, kidney or eye disease, amputations, stroke, nerve damage and erectile dysfunction in men.
Yet in many cases, type 2 diabetes may be delayed or even prevented. Rick Blickstead, president and CEO of the CDA, says understanding your personal risk for type 2 diabetes is critical to reducing your chance of developing this disease.
“If we could prevent diabetes before it has a chance to develop, that would be a game changer,” says Mr. Blickstead. “If we don’t do this, we will have one in three Canadians living with diabetes by 2024, and will be spending almost $20-billion a year on this disease.”
To halt the advance of this disease referred to frequently as “the silent killer,” the CDA is urging all Canadians to take the Canadian diabetes risk test (CANRISK), developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and accessible through the CDA’s website (www.diabetes.ca) or at www.DontBeRisky.ca. As part of the CDA’s Don’t Be Risky campaign – which runs from mid-October to November 30, with a focus on prevention – Canadians who complete the test have a chance to win a grand prize of a $5,000 or one of two $2,500 Money for Life experiences: a financial portfolio from Sun Life Financial. For every test completed, Novo Nordisk Canada will donate $1 to diabetes research.
Made up of 12 easy-to-answer questions – such as your age, gender, height and weight – the diabetes risk test takes only a few minutes to answer. At the end of the test, those with a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes are encouraged to see their doctor for testing.
“Once you know you are at risk, there are simple things you can do to help prevent diabetes, like eating a healthier diet, quitting smoking and leading a more active lifestyle,” says Mr. Blickstead. “Studies have shown that the risk of developing diabetes can be reduced by 58 per cent through lifestyle changes, including moderate weight loss and regular physical activity. That’s significant.”
Today, an estimated one million Canadians are living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. “We need to take this matter very seriously,” he says. “Take the test, don’t take the risk – because you might be one of the million who actually has diabetes and doesn’t know it.”