An estimated 285 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes. With a further seven million people developing diabetes each year, this number is expected to hit 438 million by 2030.

Here in Canada, there are more than nine million Canadians today who live with diabetes or prediabetes.

Here’s a look at the changing face of diabetes in Canada, by the numbers:

Approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas is not able to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children or adolescents.

The remaining 90 per cent of the population has type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or if the body cannot effectively use the insulin produced.

However, the number of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically due to a number of factors:

  • An aging population
  • Rising obesity rates
  • Canadian lifestyles are increasingly sedentary

Almost 80 per cent of new Canadians come from populations that are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. These include people of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent.

Aboriginal people are three to five times more likely than the general population to develop type 2 diabetes.

The cost of diabetes

If left untreated, the personal costs of diabetes may include a reduced quality of life and the increased likelihood of complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, amputation and erectile dysfunction.

  • Approximately 80 per cent of people with diabetes will die as a result of heart disease or stroke.
  • Diabetes is a contributing factor in the deaths of approximately 41,500 Canadians each year.
  • Canadian adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die prematurely, compared to people without diabetes.
  • Life expectancy for people with type 1 diabetes may be shortened by as much as 15 years. Life expectancy for people with type 2 diabetes may be shortened by 5 to 10 years.

The financial burden of diabetes and its complications is also enormous:

  • People with diabetes incur medical costs that are two to three times higher than those without diabetes.
  • A person with diabetes can face direct costs for medication and supplies ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 a year.
  • By 2020, it’s estimated that diabetes will cost the Canadian healthcare system $16.9 billion a year.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight change – either lost or gained
  • Extreme fatigue or a lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent/recurring infections
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feets

Many people who have type 2 diabetes, however, may not display symptoms.

Prevention of type 2 diabetes

To date there is no proven way to prevent type 1 diabetes. The onset of type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed, though, through:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Weight management / weight loss
  • Lifestyle management, such as stress reduction

Taking these steps now can lead to a healthier future: In a large study, people at risk of type 2 diabetes were able to reduce their risk by 58 per cent by exercising moderately for 30 minutes a day and by losing five-to-seven per cent of their body weight. In people age 60 and older, that risk was cut by almost 71 per cent.

Other large studies have shown similar results in reducing risk.

With files from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro, producer Elizabeth St. Philip and the Canadian Diabetes Association