Sooke Harbourside Lions members Georgia Medwedrich and Jeanette Umbach hold up one of the balls that will b given away on Nov. 14 on Diabetes Awareness Day to help educate people about the types of diabetes and the importance of early diagnosis. (Rick Stiebel/Sooke News Mirror)

Raising awareness key to countering diabetes epidemic

Sooke Harbourside Lions front and centre in efforts to educate

Although diabetes is on the rise at an alarming rate, raising awareness is key to controlling the damage caused by the potentially deadly disease.

The Sooke Harbourside Lions Club will do its part during World Diabetes Day to help educate the Sooke community about the symptoms and types of diabetes, and how to detect the disease in its early stages.

Part of the problem is that the symptoms are hard to detect, so people don’t realize they have diabetes, explained Georgia Medwedrich, a member of the local Lion’s club and district diabetes representative for Lion’s District I, which includes Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula.

“Education and awareness are key,” said Medwedrich, who has Type 2 diabetes. She had no idea she had the disease until her doctor ordered some blood work after she went in for a routine physical. “That’s how I found out I had it. Fifty per cent of people aren’t aware that they have it until they’re diagnosed.

“Diet and exercise can make a significant difference in controlling Type 2 diabetes, if it’s caught early. If it’s not detected early, serious complications including amputation, blindness and kidney failure can occur.”

That’s why Sooke Harbourside Lions Club members will be out in force on Nov. 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Shoppers Drug Mart, Pharmasave Drugstore and Village Foods as part of an international Lions initiative, said Jeanette Umbach, diabetes representative for Sooke Harbourside Lions Club.

“We’ll be handing out risk assessments that include the symptoms,” she said. “If people check off any of the boxes they should check with their doctor.” Lions club members will also have information sheets on the different types of diabetes, as well as calendars with nutritious recipes, healthy living tips and advice on how to reduce the risk of heart disease.


Diabetes has reached epidemic levels on a worldwide scale. More than 11 million Canadians – almost 1.5 million in B.C. – are affected by diabetes, and half of those don’t realize they have it. Serious complications include heart problems, strokes, vascular disease, and amputations. Diabetes is also a leading cause of kidney failure and blindness.

Symptoms include unusual thirst, frequent urination, extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, and, in men, difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.

Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for about one in 10 people with the disease, occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. This results in glucose (sugar) building up in the body instead of being used for energy. The cause is unknown and it can’t be prevented. About five to 10 per cent of people with diabetes fall into that category. Insulin therapy, which is administered by syringe, pen or pump, is the cornerstone for treatment of Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in adulthood in about 90 per cent of cases, occurs when the pancreas can’t produce insulin or the body can’t use it. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being used for energy. Keeping glucose levels within the prescribed range by eating healthy snacks, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight and managing stress are some of the ways that can lead to a long and healthy life.

Although gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy, it does increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Prediabetes is an indication that blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be Type 2 diabetes.

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