BY JUSTIN FORD
Friday, Nov. 14 was World Diabetes Day, but you may not have even known that.
Deadly diseases have days – and sometimes even months – where people advocating for those affected try to raise money and awareness. I’m sure everyone’s heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, and NFL fans all over the world know when Breast Cancer Awareness Month is, but why doesn’t diabetes get as much attention? Simply put, it’s underappreciated.
Conestoga Students Inc. wasn’t even aware there was a World Diabetes Day when I asked them if anything would be done at the college. Granted, they’re probably quite focused on Movember at the moment.
Diabetes is a disease that doesn’t get enough attention, and based on how deadly it is and how many lives it affects, it definitely deserves more. November is also National Diabetes Awareness Month, but even that takes a back seat to mustachioed men.
“Diabetes is a serious disease that has reached epidemic proportions in Canada,” Krista Lamb, communications manager for the Canadian Diabetes Association, said in an email. “Currently, more than nine million Canadians, or one in four, are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes – a number expected to rise to one in three by 2020.”
Diabetes sets in when the pancreas stops producing a sufficient amount of insulin, or when the cells in the body stop responding properly to the insulin being produced. There are three main types. Type 1 diabetes, which is sometimes known as “juvenile diabetes,” is when the body isn’t producing enough insulin and the cause is unknown. Type 2 diabetes, which is often referred to as “adult-onset diabetes,” begins with an insulin resistance, and as the disease progresses, a lack of insulin may also develop. Gestational diabetes is the third kind which affects pregnant women with no previous history of diabetes who develop a high blood glucose level. Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90 per cent of all cases worldwide.
Through technological advances in health care, diabetes has become more treatable. Still, there are serious long-term complications that often arise such as heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes.
I knew a girl in high school who had diabetes and she seemed like a typical teenage girl. She never seemed uncomfortable or in any kind of pain. Actually, she was a very pleasant and bubbly person. Maybe it’s assumptions like these that lead people to forget about how serious diabetes is and ultimately put its importance on the backburner to things like cancer and heart disease. After watching this girl live her seemingly normal life, I never gave it another thought, until a friend of mine’s grandfather died from the disease.
“People with diabetes may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than individuals without diabetes,” Lamb said. “It is estimated that having diabetes can potentially shorten a person’s lifespan by five to 15 years.”
World Diabetes Day doesn’t come with a snappy catchphrase, pink sweatbands or videos of people dumping things over their heads, but that doesn’t mean raising awareness about the disease is any less important.