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Know the risks for diabetes and steps to prevent it

Posted by Medavie Blue Cross on November 10, 2020

November is Diabetes Month, an annual public education campaign to draw attention to a chronic condition that affects almost 3.7 million Canadians.

We’ve created this blog to do our part to raise awareness about diabetes, the risk factors and the steps that all Canadians can take to prevent or delay the onset of this disease.

What is Diabetes?

Eleven million Canadians, that’s about one in three adults, are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Chances are diabetes affects you or someone you know.

Diabetes is a disease in which your body either can't produce insulin or can't properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas.

The role of insulin is to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar must be carefully regulated to ensure that the body functions properly. Too much blood sugar can cause damage to organs, blood vessels, and nerves. Your body also needs insulin in order to use sugar for energy.

Types of diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes: type 2, type 1, and gestational diabetes.

  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes in Canada. More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by making healthy lifestyle choices, e.g., eating a balanced diet, increasing physical activity, losing excess weight.
  • Type 1 diabetes (also called insulin-dependent diabetes) accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases of diabetes in Canada. People with type 1 diabetes need to test their blood glucose multiple times a day and inject insulin to survive. It is not preventable and there is no cure.
  • Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition affecting about 4 percent of all pregnancies, which carries an increased risk of future diabetes for both mother and child.


Prediabetes refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Almost 6 million Canadians have prediabetes. Most do not even know it.

Diabetes symptoms

You can have type 2 diabetes without any obvious warning signs or symptoms. Classic symptoms of type 2 and type 1 diabetes include:

  • unusual thirst
  • frequent urination
  • weight change (gain or loss)
  • extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • blurred vision

It's important to know the risk factors and get checked.

Risk Factors

Some diabetes risk factors can be managed or reduced, while other factors may be beyond your control.

  • Males are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes
  • As you get older, your risk of developing diabetes goes up
  • Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes

Other risk factors include:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
  • Belonging to certain high-risk ethnic populations (e.g., Aboriginal, African, Hispanic, Asian)

If you think you might be at risk for developing diabetes, don't ignore these risk factors. The earlier you're diagnosed, the sooner you can take action to stay well — now and in the future.

Take the test

Want to know if you are at risk?

Fill out Canadian diabetes risk questionnaire

Everyone over the age of 40 should be tested for diabetes every three years. If you have one or more risk factors, you should be tested earlier and more frequently.

Reduce your risk

If left unmanaged, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes. It doesn’t have to be that way. By taking steps to manage your blood sugar, you can change your future to one free of type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Following a healthy diet (see Canada's Food Guide)
  • Exercising regularly (start slowly and increase to 150 minutes per week)
  • Losing weight (losing five to 10 per cent of your total weight is all you need to make a huge difference)

Taking steps now to improve your lifestyle can lead to a healthier future.

Health coaching, education

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, we can connect you with a health professional in your community to help you gain the knowledge and the confidence to self-manage your condition.

Our Managing Chronic Disease benefit provides coverage for personalized health coaching and disease management education.

Services are available without a doctor's referral. Your Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) will work closely with you to guide and support you on your path to wellness — every step of the way — in person, by phone or video chat, from the comfort of your home.

It's health care on your terms to help you live better.

Diabetes services and supports

We offer a wide range of services and supports to help Canadians manage Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Medavie Blue Cross tools

Connect with a Health Professional: Find a Certified Diabetes Educator near you to set and achieve goals for your blood sugar and minimize complications.

Medavie Mobile App: Our mobile app is designed to help you manage your benefits on the go. Submit a claim, search coverage, find a health provider near you, and more.

My Good Health: Our health and wellness portal gives you access to reliable information on health conditions, diagnostic tests and procedures, healthy living resources, and tools and calculators to help you better understand your condition.

Search for benefit details using our Medavie Mobile App or our Plan Member Centre.

Diabetes info

Diabetes Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Call toll-free 1-800-BANTING (226-8464)

Learn more about the Managing Chronic Disease benefit

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