Boyd Tolton knew he would probably end up with diabetes because it runs in his family. But his husband, Renato, didn’t share those concerns.

That changed when Boyd bought a home blood tester to check his sugar levels and, just for fun, took a sample from Renato.

“He was worse than I was,” the 53-year-old from Calgary told us.

The couple are among about 11 million Canadians who live with diabetes or prediabetes. It’s so common Diabetes Canada states - “Chances are, diabetes affects someone you know.”

What is Diabetes?
There are three major types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes. Prediabetes is also an important diagnosis that tells someone they may be at an elevated risk of developing diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependant diabetes, is an autoimmune disease where people are unable to produce their own insulin and can’t regulate their blood sugar due to their body attacking the pancreas.

People with type 1 diabetes rely on insulin injections or use an insulin pump to help regulate their body’s insulin levels. Type 1 generally develops at a young age, but can also be developed as an adult. Roughly 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1.

Type 2 diabetes, is caused by an improper use of the insulin produced within the body, or by the body not producing enough insulin. This form of diabetes is the most common with roughly 90 per cent of diabetics having type 2.

Type 2 is commonly developed in adulthood, but can also occur in children. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed with healthy lifestyle choices, but can also require medications or insulin therapy.

Gestational diabetes is the third major type of diabetes and can temporarily occur during pregnancy. Research suggests that being diagnosed with gestational diabetes increases the chances of developing diabetes later in life for both the mother and her child. Roughly three to 20 per cent of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Why do People get Diabetes?
Excess body weight and obesity are common risk factors for diabetes. But people with a healthy body weight can also be at risk.  According to the Mayo Clinic, high cholesterol, ethnic background or a family history of diabetes can also increase an individual’s risk.

How do you Prevent Diabetes?
More than half of type 2 diabetes cases can be avoided or delayed by a healthy lifestyle. Experts say people have power with some simple lifestyle changes.

And there’s time. Research shows the disease may begin more than a decade before diagnosis.

David Naylor is living proof preventative steps can work. When his doctor warned him that he was at risk of becoming diabetic, he took action to try to dodge a diagnosis.

“For me, it was all about diet. I immediately started to take notice of things like sugar content in yogurt. I use sweetener in my tea. My blood sugars have dropped two-thirds and it hasn’t been onerous,” he says.

Here are some tips to try to avoid a diagnosis:

DROP THE POUNDS - One study showed that those who lost about seven per cent of their body weight saw their risk of developing diabetes go down by nearly 60 per cent.

GET MOVING - Motion is medicine. Regular physical activity can help with weight loss, lower blood sugar and boost sensitivity to insulin which keeps blood sugar within a normal range. Get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five times a week.


  • Add more vegetables, cook at home, choose whole grain foods, drink water instead of soda or juice and don’t overdo portion sizes
  • Cut out highly processed foods, refined grains, and sugary food
  • Add plant-based proteins, dairy, lean meats, oily fish, nuts, and healthy oils, like olive oil, to meals

What if you Already have Diabetes?
Don’t give up.  Achieving a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise all help to improve blood glucose control.

Resources to Assess your Risk & Get Educated
Discuss your risk with your doctor. You can start by taking the Canadian Diabetes questionnaire.

  • Diabetes Canada offers resources on everything from coping with diabetes during COVID-19 to managing sugar highs and lows and tips for dining out
  • Newly diagnosed Canadians can find step-by-step instructions on how to inject insulin, carb-counting made easy, and more
  • If you’re high-risk, you may be eligible for the free Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program

GMS Health & Travel Insurance is partnered with Diabetes Canada for Lace up To End Diabetes. Join the event in September by signing up or donating to support research into prevention, care and a cure. For more info, go to Lace Up to End Diabetes, presented by GMS - Diabetes Canada.