Diabetes awareness vital for better health
CAMERON KILFOY SALTWIRE NETWORK
Did you know that every 24 hours 620 Canadians are diagnosed with diabetes? Or that one in three Nova Scotians live with diabetes or prediabetes? It is okay if you didn’t because that’s what this month is all about. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and health professionals in Atlantic Canada are planning on using it to their advantage to help educate. “I think it is very important to raise awareness for the condition,” said Nathalie Paris, an in-store dietitian in Corner Brook, N.L. “You’re not the illness; diabetes does not define you. It’s important to spread awareness for the disease and show how to support those living with diabetes.” Paris is a registered dietitian for Dominion and ensures spreading a sense of awareness year around. “I use my social media platforms to create posts with educational resources,” said Paris. “I will be promoting diabetes content throughout the month and pushing more content on my personal social media to get the word out there.” Becoming a dietitian was a no-brainer for Paris as she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 10. Paris says the experience she gained from learning to maintain her illness helped her mature. “You have to be aware of what you are eating; there are a lot of calculations and medications,” said Paris. “The diabetes technology back then wasn’t what it is today. There are a lot more advances now but growing up I couldn’t be as carefree as the other kids.” Through becoming a dietitian, Paris now has the platform to help other people who are like her. From her experience, she says diabetes is a very manageable disease and it’s all about maintaining. “When you have diabetes and it is uncontrolled it can cause long-term health damage,” said Paris. “So, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing your blood sugars can lower those risks. It is important to take a more preventative approach.” While spreading awareness, Paris also hopes to tackle another issue surrounding the disease. She is hoping to spark conversation in ending the stigma around diabetes. “I believe there are stigmas around diabetes, especially type two diabetes,” said Paris. “Type one is an autoimmune disease and type-two is developed later in life. I believe when a lot of individuals hear the term type two, they automatically think that person gave themself diabetes.” Paris adds studies show there are many contributing factors in developing type-two diabetes, including genetics. Throughout the month she plans to get the ball rolling for people to think differently. Having a special connection to the disease, Paris says National Awareness Month means the world. “It gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling,” said Paris. “A lot of people know what diabetes is but with the stigma, seeing promotional content that tries to break that down, as someone living with diabetes that makes me very happy. “It also makes me happy to see people gain knowledge on how many people live with diabetes and the impact it has on their life.” Angela Macneil is a Halifaxbased pharmacist for Shoppers Drug Mart. Growing up, Macneil loved science and wanted a career where she could impact health in people’s lives. After 16 years in the professional health industry, she has plans for spreading awareness for diabetes. “We are offering weekly diabetes clinics at select locations. We are offering blood sugar tests and medication reviews. “We are also able to do nutrition referrals to help manage the diet side of things,” said Macneil, adding she wants to spread the message of how important it is to manage your disease. “Diet, exercise and medication management are your three key factors in preventing progression,” said Macneil. “Keep those sugars down and under control. It is a complex disease and people need pharmacists and dietitians to help them.” As complex as diabetes gets or as overwhelming as the material might be, Macneil reminds people, if treated properly, living a long-full life with diabetes is obtainable. “There is a lot of information and drastic lifestyle changes involved but it is the most manageable disease out there. If you take the appropriate steps to manage it becomes second nature and becomes part of your life. There is no reason it should have any negative impact on your life.” Macneil hopes to remind the public that there are people who want to help. “The biggest thing for me is showing people not to be scared to make those lifestyle changes,” said Macneil. “We have the resources to help you and pharmacists and dietitians who want to help you. We can get you to the point where living with diabetes is normal and give you a great quality of life.” Both Paris and Macneil encourage people to play their part and learn something to help a loved one, friend or family member. The two agree being educated is the only way to tackle the epidemic that is diabetes.