These figures are eye-opening and startling. But realizing that you are higher risk for this disease means you can take the steps to reduce your risk and even prevent the disease.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic, often debilitating and sometimes fatal disease. Individuals develop the condition when the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin controls the amount of glucose in the blood.
Diabetes leads to high levels of glucose in the blood, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body needs insulin to use glucose as an energy source.
Who is at risk?
South Asians -- including Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi -- can all be affected. Research also shows that diabetes seems to appear years earlier in South Asians and the disease may progress more quickly.
There are a number of factors which contribute to this risky health situation, including:
- Genetics: South Asians store more fat than muscle which affects insulin activity in the body
- Eating habits: Fried foods can lead to weight gain.
- Lack of physical activity: Like other Canadians, South Asians are not getting enough daily physical activity, which helps to maintain a healthy weight.
- Stress of coming to a new country: The changes which happen with resettlement can lead to stress and depression, which can make it more difficult to make healthy life choices.
There are many programs and resources in your community which can help you keep you and your family healthy. You can start today by:
- Eating a balanced, culturally-relevant diet: Start with Eating well with Canada's food guide. You can also ask for a referral to a dietician who is familiar with South Asian Foods.
- Get moving: No need to get a gym membership. Walking, dancing count. Lower fitness levels combined with greater body fat can lead to insulin resistance. Your goal should be 30 minutes, 5 times a week.
- Don't do it alone: Speak to doctor or nurse about your individual risk. You should also get an annual check up.
Sources: Flemingdon Health Centre and Canadian Diabetes Association
Karen Ramlall is a Toronto-based communications professional who likes running and is a bit of science nerd. You can connect with her on Twitter @KarenRamlall.