Nunavik health board urges more diabetes awareness on Nov. 14, World Diabetes Day
Diabetes rate among Inuit is increasing
On Nov. 14, World Diabetes Day, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services is urging Nunavimmiut “to take active control of their health and well-being.”
During the year, various activities will be organized throughout Nunavik to raise public awareness of the risk factors and the means to prevent this health problem, which is slowly spreading in the region, the health board said in a Nov. 14 news release.
A healthy lifestyle, which includes good nutrition, regular physical activity, stress management and no smoking prevents diabetes, the health board said.
Diabetes has been called a ticking “time bomb” in the Arctic which has been linked to the presence of contaminants in meat and blubber of marine mammals.
So the numbers of people with diabetes is likely to grow among Arctic adults born between the 1950s and 1970s, who were exposed to more pollution in their traditional diet, some public health experts say.
Research shows diabetes has already increased in Canada’s Inuit communities.
According to Statistics Canada’s 1991 Aboriginal Peoples Survey, Inuit had a rate of diabetes of only 1.9 per cent, much lower than the rate for the rest of the Canadian population.
But the 2004 Qanuippitaa study in Nunavik found that about five per cent of people, or five in 100 Nunavimmiut, suffer from diabetes, with overweight women at greatest risk.
Inuit know diabetes as “timi siuraujaartuqaluartuq” or “sukaqaluartuq,” which means “too much sugar within the body.”
Diabetes develops when the body can’t process sugars properly, leading to high levels of sugar in the blood. Left unchecked, diabetes can lead to heart attacks, nerve damage, kidney disease and blindness.
Treatment for diabetes usually involves a combination of changes to diet and medication, such as insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. (in fact, World Diabetes Day is celebrated on Nov. 14 to honour the birthday of its co-discoverer, Sir Frederick Banting).
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include the following: unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change (gain or loss), extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, or trouble getting or maintaining an erection.
But many people who develop diabetes as adults may display no symptoms.
Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, the federal health minister, launched the Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire on World Diabetes Day in 2011 to inform Canadians about their risks of developing diabetes.
You can consult the CANRISK questionnaire here.