How Many Canadians Have Diabetes?

By Victoria Simpson on June 2 2020 in Science

Doctor measuring blood sugar level of diabetic patient in clinic. Image credit: Africa Studio/
Doctor measuring blood sugar level of diabetic patient in clinic. Image credit: Africa Studio/
  • The further you travel from the equator, the higher your risk of developing diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes is more often diagnosed in childhood.
  • About one third of Canadians have prediabetes or diabetes.

Diabetes is defined as: “A disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine.”

According to Statistics Canada, the latest totals which were tallied in 2017 show that about 2.3 million people, or 7.3% of all Canadians who are twelve years of age and older, have been diagnosed with diabetes. When you add prediabetes to this total, the percentage becomes staggering. According to Diabetes Canada, one third of all Canadians are currently living with some form of diabetes or pre-diabetes. This is troubling as diabetes can cause numerous complications and actually kill you, if not properly managed. Here is a brief look at the disease, its symptoms, and risk factors. 

Prediabetes vs Diabetes

What is prediabetes? If you suffer from this condition, your blood sugar levels are consistently higher than they should normally be, but they are not quite high enough to qualify you as having diabetes. When left unchecked, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, you are prediabetic if your fasting blood sugar level is impaired, meaning it ranges from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 7.0 mmol/L). Once your fasting blood sugar level reaches 126 mg/dL (7.0 mmol/L) or higher this is a sign you have type 2 diabetes. Your fasting blood sugar level is usually taken in the morning before you have eaten breakfast. To complete the test, you may have your blood sugar levels taken before eating for the first time in the morning, and then you drink a sugary liquid. The doctor will then test your blood sugar levels again intermittently over the next two hours. 

Type 1 vs Type 2 

Type 1 diabetes is not as common as type 2. According to Diabetes Canada type 1 diabetes occurs in just 10% of people living with diabetes, and it usually develops when a person is a child or an adolescent. Type 1 can also develop in adulthood, but this is less common. 

People living with type 1 diabetes have a pancreas that does not produce any insulin, and they need to inject insulin or use an insulin pump, in its place.

When you eat, your blood sugar levels rise. This tells your pancreas to release insulin to your bloodstream. Your body requires insulin to control your blood sugar levels, and uses it to convert the sugar in your blood into usable energy. You also need insulin to help your body store this energy for future use in your fat cells, muscles, and liver. Once your muscles have this energy, you can do things like run, swim, and walk.

If your body does not produce enough insulin, the sugar in your system sits in your bloodstream at high levels, unused, and you do not get enough fuel to function. 

People living with type 2 diabetes have a similar situation, but it is slightly different. Their body cannot make enough insulin, or they do make insulin but their body will no longer use it properly. 


Both types of diabetes share some common symptoms. If you have diabetes type 1 or 2 and it is not being treated you may experience fatigue, frequent urination, weakness, and weight loss. Children with symptoms of type 1 diabetes may also wet the bed when they never did before, and both children and adults may seem extremely hungry, and have an irritable mood, and blurred vision. 

Those with type 2 diabetes may also have infections that will not heal. A person may also experience a tingling sensation in their extremities, among other symptoms. 

Risk Factors

When it comes to type 1 diabetes, surprisingly, the further away you travel from the equator, the greater the number of people have it. Having a family history of the disease can also put you at risk. 

Looking at type 2 diabetes, if you are over the age of 40 and you have someone in your immediate family who is suffering from it, you have a higher risk of developing it yourself. Living with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, having a high body mass index (BMI), and having sleep apnea, among other conditions, can also put you at risk for type 2 diabetes.

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