November 14 is World Diabetes Day, and this year’s theme is “Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future”. All women with diabetes require affordable and equitable access to care and education to better self manage their diabetes and improve their health outcomes.
Diabetes is influenced by risk factors that include demographics; socioeconomic factors; and underlying health conditions. The Canadian Diabetes Association reports that Indigenous women are four times more at risk than non Indigenous women. The high risks among our Indigenous female population are attributed to genetic predisposition, decreased physical activity, increased obesity, and restricted dietary access. Although there may not be an easy solution to these issues, health care providers should treat women more aggressively and earlier than men when it comes to diabetes.
For women with diabetes, heart disease is the leading cause of death. The Annals of Internal Medicine reported that between 1971 and 2000 the death rate for men decreased but more than doubled for women. This could be because women often receive less aggressive treatment for cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. It is important for women to be aware of these risks and decrease risk factors such as stop smoking, maintain healthy weight, and exercise regularly
The Canadian Diabetes Association reports that women with diabetes also experience depression twice as often as men. A depressed mood could lead to poorer physical and mental functioning, making it more difficult to manage diabetes which could lead to poorer blood sugar control, higher risk for diabetes related complications, decreased quality of life, increased family problems, and higher health care costs. Women need to be aware of other symptoms of depression, including feeling tired most of the time, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in eating habits, having trouble making decisions, and feeling hopeless or helpless. Depression is treatable with medication, counseling or both.
Women diagnosed with diabetes face unique challenges with regards to social/demographic, biological and psychological differences. World Diabetes Day reminds us that women and girls must be given access to knowledge and resources to help them manage their own health and to prevent type 2 diabetes among their families.
“As many women take on the task of grocery shopping and preparing meals for themselves and their families, they have a huge influence on the long term health of their children as well as themselves,” said Ashley Colville, Registered Dietitian with the Centre for Complex Diabetes. “Empowering women with education to make balanced, healthy food choices, will not only assist with improving their health, but contribute to the prevention of diabetes and other chronic disease for the future generations.”
To help, people are encouraged to wear blue on Tuesday November 14th to raise international awareness of diabetes and show your support for all women in your life that live with diabetes.
To learn more about our Hospital’s Centre for Complex Diabetes Care, please visit www.tbh.net.