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Scott Strasser

Diabetes awareness expo takes place at Foothills campus

By Scott Strasser, November 29 2016 —

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) and the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre hosted the annual Diabetes Awareness Day and Expo on Nov. 26 at the University of Calgary Foothills campus.

Now in its 14th year, the expo featured lectures and discussions related to diabetes-related research.

“The goal is to introduce [people] to the cutting-edge thinking about diabetes and inspire them to feel they can better take control of diabetes management and care,” regional director of the CDA for Alberta and the Northwest Territories Scott McRae said.

The CDA’s expo always takes place in November to coincide with Diabetes Awareness Month. This is because insulin — the hormone that diabetics do not produce enough of — was discovered in November 1921.


The expo took place at the U of C Foothills campus // Photo by Scott Strasser

Diabetes Day is officially recognized on Nov. 14.

McRae said prior to the discovery of insulin, a diabetes diagnosis was “essentially a death sentence.”

“People could diagnose it, but there was no possible way to manage it,” he said. “With the introduction of insulin, it became possible for people living with diabetes to continue to manage this chronic disease and live a full, rich life.”

Diabetes is a metabolic disease where the body isn’t able to produce enough insulin, causing elevated glucose levels. Type 1 diabetes is when someone does not produce any insulin, while Type 2 is when someone’s body cannot use insulin effectively.

Type 2 is usually onset later in life than Type 1.

According to the CDA, roughly 303,000 people in Alberta are diagnosed with diabetes, 600,000 have something called “pre-diabetes” and 130,000 are likely living with the disease, but are not officially diagnosed.

“This is probably the biggest health epidemic we’re facing, both nationally, provincially and globally,” McRae said.

The CDA claims diabetes rates have doubled in Alberta since the early 2000s. McRae said there are many reasons for the increase — especially Type 2 — including an older population, changing demographics and unhealthier lifestyles leading to a more overweight population

“We’re a more sedentary society, our food has degraded in quality, we’re tending to eat more fast food and easy carbohydrates. We’re getting heavier. All those factors contribute to the early onset of Type 2 diabetes,” he said.

McRae says there is a misconception that the disease only affects older generations.

“That was never true, but it’s becoming less and less true every single year,” he said. “There are significant parts of the student population that either have Type 2 diabetes already or definitely Type 1, which onsets earlier.”

One of the lecturers at the Nov. 26 expo was U of C professor David Lau, from the departments of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology. He said the focus for this year’s expo was how heart health relates to diabetes.

“We now have diabetes medication that have been shown to protect the heart,” he said. “In addition, we also highlighted the importance of healthy eating and in particular, encouraging people with diabetes to eat more ‘pulses’.”

More than 300 people attended the expo.

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