Today, November 14, is World Diabetes Day.

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The designation is meant to draw attention to the chronic disease that affects 422 million people worldwide in 2014 and will become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

In recognition of World Diabetes Day and Diabetes Awareness Month, we’re offering a little more information about the disease and two easy ways you can lower your chances of becoming at risk of developing diabetes while helping raise funds for diabetes research.

What Is Diabetes?

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by the body’s inability to properly regulate insulin, a hormone that assists in the regulation of blood sugar, which leads to organ damage and a lack of energy supplied to the body through the breakdown of glucose (sugar).

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Those with type 1 diabetes account for approximately 10 per cent of those diagnosed with diabetes. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas, making the release of insulin very low or non-existent. This causes a build-up in blood sugar, which is generally managed with insulin injections and meal planning.

Those with type 2 diabetes account for approximately 90 per cent of those diagnosed with the disease. With type 2 diabetes, insulin released by the pancreas fails to be properly utilized by the body, resulting in a buildup of blood sugar. Treatments for type 2 diabetes ranges from exercise regimens and meal planning to medications.

Complications from both types of the disease are very serious and can include stroke, heart attack, blood flow issues, kidney disease, blindness or vision problems, and more. Overall, the disease can be fatal and can lower a patient’s life expectancy.

What Does “Prediabetes” Mean?

Simply put, if you’re diagnosed with “prediabetes,” that means you’re at very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Though according to the Canadian Diabetes Association, 50 per cent of those with prediabetes will be later diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise, weight loss and a healthy nutrition plan can lower your risk and reverse a prediabetes diagnosis.

Two Ways You Can Help Raise Awareness and Lower Your Risk

1. Discover Your Current Risk

Prevention is key when it comes to your overall health and diabetes risk. While it’s recommended you visit your family doctor on an annual basis, the Canadian Diabetes Association has created a quick two-minute, 10-step online quiz to assess your risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The quiz requires you to answer some basic questions and offers facts regarding diabetes risk factors as you complete the questionnaire. At the end, the questionnaire will calculate your current risk score. Note that the quiz is only as accurate as your answers, so be sure to fill it in as honestly and completely as you’re able. Even then, it’s best to still talk to your doctor if you have concerns, but this is a good starting point. Take the quiz.

2. Take the 21-Day Challenge to End Diabetes

The Canadian Diabetes Association has launched a fundraising initiative based on the theory that it takes just 21 days to form a habit and stick to it. Start a healthy habit and stick to it with this 21-day challenge. Pledge to walk, run, cook a healthy meal or take on a new healthy habit that you’ll perform each day for 21 days. Once you’ve chosen your challenge, sign up at 21DaysforDiabetes.ca and create a profile. Next, encourage friends, family and social followers to make a pledge on your behalf and spread the word on social media with #Diabetes21. Be sure to support others in completing their challenges too! Don’t want to go it alone? Combine forces with your colleagues, friends or family and join as a team! All funds raised will support research and programs that could help find a cure or offer support to those diagnosed with the disease.