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Adrian     Diabetes: the silent killer

Are you over 40 years of age, carry extra weight around your abdomen, have high cholesterol and blood pressure, and have a history of heart disease? If so, then you may be at risk for developing type-2 diabetes. While it may not seem like it will happen to you, Filipinos are actually considered one of the high-risk populations, especially those with close relative that are affected by it. Canadian adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die prematurely due to complications and may have their life expectancy shortened by five to 10 years. By 2010, it is expected that three million Canadians will have diabetes.

Type-2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when your pancreas does not properly use the insulin it makes, or fails to produce it. Your body requires energy to fuel your body. It uses the insulin to break down the glucose (sugars) from foods such as rice, milk, and fruit. With type 2 diabetes, this process does not work properly and glucose starts to build up in your blood (high blood sugar). When blood sugar levels are left unmanaged, it may affect your eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart over time.

Thankfully, type-2 diabetes can be managed so that you can still enjoy a long and healthy life. The key to preventing or managing diabetes is to eat healthy meals and snacks, participate in regular physical activity and to take the appropriate medications if prescribed by your doctor. This keeps your blood sugar levels within a specific target range.

Studies have shown that physically active individuals have a 30 - 50% lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes than those who are less active. Not only does physical activity help control blood sugar levels, it also leads to weight loss, stronger bones and improves blood pressure control. People can enjoy increased energy levels while decreasing their risk of cancer or heart disease. This is important because 80% of people with diabetes die as a result of heart disease or stroke.

Both aerobic and resistance exercise are important for people living with diabetes.

Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, running, swimming, dancing, basketball and tennis work your heart and lungs, and carry oxygen to your muscles. Physical activity guidelines recommend a goal of at least 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise each week (e.g. 30 minutes, 5 days a week). You may have to start slowly, with as little as 5 to 10 minutes of exercise per day, gradually adding more minutes each time. Even multiple, shorter exercise sessions of at least 10 minutes each are probably as useful as a single longer session of the same intensity.

Resistance exercises such as weight training, increase muscle strength and complement the benefits of aerobic exercise. Work your way up to doing resistance exercises like lifting weights that target large muscle groups three days a week. If you are new to resistance exercise, you should first get some instruction from a qualified exercise specialist, such as a physiotherapist, and start slowly.

Exercise programs that include fitness testing and supervision are among the most effective exercise interventions for people with diabetes. A physiotherapist will:

• Assess your current level of fitness and ability
• Prescribe an appropriate exercise program that includes aerobic and resistance training
• Review principles of good posture and safe exercise techniques, and use of resistance equipment
• Monitor progress and adjust your fitness program as required
• Provide motivational support to ensure success of the therapeutic exercise plan

As we age, we are at an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes. This is why it is important to educate ourselves and start to make changes in our nutrition and physical activity. November is Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada. To find out more about the prevention and management of diabetes, or about the different types of diabetes visit


Adrian Salonga is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor’s degree of Medical Rehabilitation in Physical Therapy. Please send your questions regarding mobility, health promotion, or injury prevention to


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