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Two million Canadians will get diabetes this decade

I had an opportunity earlier this week to visit a local fitness club here in the St. John’s area with a view to starting an exercise program. As I was getting the tour of the facility, a woman on the walking track pretty much made up my mind for me – in just a quick conversation, she said “I wish I had been here much earlier, this feels so good.” I felt the exact same way the last time I participated in regular exercise in 2006-2007. I used to go to the YMCA and got involved in the aqua-fit classes. Three mornings a week, it was “me and the grannies” although a few other guys eventually started attending. My schedule at the time allowed me the luxury of attending … now it’s no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. So on Monday, I’m going to sign up.

Over the last few weeks, I find myself becoming increasingly aware of the obesity around me. In terms of regional differences in the prevalence of obesity, results from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey suggest that prevalence of obesity among men, women and children was significantly higher than the national rate in both Newfoundland and Labrador. Nearly 13 million adult Canadians -- or 61% -- are considered to be either obese or overweight, an increase of seven percent since 2004. Statistics show that the incidence of heart disease and diabetes is way higher here than in other parts of Canada.

It’s worrisome to realize that I fit the profile right on the mark. When I look around, I see way too many fat people and too many carrying weight in excess of 35 on the BMI scale which the medical profession describes as morbidly obese. Deadly fat might be a better way to describe it. I work with two relatively young women who are in that category. Frankly, I worry about their health.

A new study out this week and reported on Canada.com suggests two million Canadians will get diabetes this decade. The study, conducted by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, examined Canadian population trends to determine how to best prepare for a surge in diabetes cases. It concluded that about one out of every 10 adult Canadians -- about 1.9 million people -- will develop the disease within the next 10 years, and that public health authorities should start preparing for the glut now.

Dr. Doug Manuel, the study's lead author said people who are overweight (those with a body mass index of between 25 and 29) and obese (BMI greater than 30) will make up half of all new diabetes diagnoses.

The study findings included this data:

• Between 2007 and 2017, 1.9 million Canadians are predicted to develop diabetes. This means that about nine out of every 100 Canadians are predicted to be newly diagnosed with diabetes during the 10-year period.
• In 2007, the 10-year risk of diabetes was lowest in Québec, British Columbia and Canada's urban regions. Individuals who are obese have the highest individual diabetes risk, but Canadians who are overweight bear the greatest population risk.
• In total, 712,000 cases are predicted to develop in people who are overweight, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25–30, compared to 247,000 cases for people who are very obese (BMI>35).

Many of these overweight people will be diagnosed with diabetes in their 30s or 40s. They will live with the disease for decades and could develop any number of complications, such as blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks or stroke, meaning years of hospital visits, surgeries and treatment regimens for a large swath of the population.

"If you're diagnosed with diabetes when you're 70, it's likely you're going to die from complications within a couple of years," said Manuel. "But if you're diagnosed when you're 30, there's a good chance you could spend years, for example, on dialysis. And that's where problems arise."

It’s also where enormous costs arise for our health care system. I recall reading or hearing a statistic recently that said in Newfoundland at the present time, the dialysis patient numbers increase by ten percent each year. "What our model is saying is who these people are," said Manuel, "and the key message that it's not just these individuals that are high risk, it's a population thing as well."

The message is clear. Let’s hope we hear it in time.

Sources for this item included:

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