Dr. Ian Blumer has a motto: Rule your diabetes; don't let it rule you.

In his 20 years as a diabetes specialist, Blumer has observed first-hand the problems so many of his patients have with diabetes and the struggle to maintain their health.

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) reports that diabetes rates have doubled over the past decade, with one in every three Canadians projected to have diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020. Today, more than 2.5 million Canadians are living with the disease.

Dr. Blumer's latest book, Diabetes for Canadians for Dummies, 3rd Edition uses information from the newest guidelines from the CDA.

Dr. Blumer offers a friendly, informative exploration of the newest data about the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, advances in monitoring glucose and the latest medications. More tips include how to create a state-of-the-art diabetes treatment program, ways to juggle diabetes with daily commitments, and how to develop a diet and exercise plan to stay healthy.

Blumer says there is new information in his book that even the most hale and hearty person with diabetes may be unaware of, such as:

Book cover - Diabetes for Canadians for DummiesThere is no one, set way to treat diabetes

He touts the latest version of the CDA guidelines as promoting an "individualized" approach to treating diabetes.

"Target blood glucose levels need to be individualized based on a person's age, general state of health and other health issues," says Blumer. "Most people with diabetes should strive to keep their blood glucose levels in the traditional target range of 4 to 7 mmol/L before meals and 5 to 10 mmol/L two hours after meals, but there are certain people for whom this target is too low, because they would be at risk of having problems with low blood sugar. For example, if people are frail or very elderly, or have a limited life expectancy, their blood sugar targets aren't the same as those of young, healthy people with many years of life ahead of them; their targets can be somewhat higher and still be appropriate for them."

  • There is an array of beneficial dietary and medical treatments for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. Work with your diabetes health care team to create a plan that works especially for you.

A1C test helps make reliable diabetes diagnoses

Traditionally, testing to diagnose diabetes was done by either measuring a person's blood glucose level while he or she was fasting, or by measuring it both before and after consuming a sugar-rich drink (a "glucose tolerance test"). Nowadays, however, doctors can also diagnose diabetes based on the result of an A1C (also referred to as the hemoglobin A1C or HbA1C) blood test. An advantage to this test is that, unlike the previously mentioned tests, the A1C test does not require fasting.

In his book, Blumer notes that the A1C test measures how much glucose has become attracted to your red blood cells over the past three to four months. Not only can the A1C test be used to diagnose diabetes, it is also an invaluable test to assess ongoing blood glucose control and is used as a complementary tool to blood-glucose meter testing. The A1C test can help doctors and patients know when diabetes therapy needs adjusting to help prevent complications from developing.

  • Know and learn the importance of your A1C results. The CDA recommends that adults with diabetes have their A1C tested every three months (or up to six months if your A1C is consistently within target).

Stay current with the latest diabetes information

It's important to realize that no matter where you are in terms of your journey with diabetes, the reality is that most of the day-to-day management of diabetes is done by the patient, not by the health-care providers, Blumer points out. So it's essential to stay on top of the latest information, such as the CDA's newest guidelines and recommendations.

"Most times, people either don't have the information they need, or they get it and don't realize that at some point the information will be out of date," says Blumer.

He advises patients to meet regularly with their diabetes health care team (family doctor, dietitian, diabetes nurse educator and, when appropriate, diabetes specialist) to stay informed. Your odds are better when you know how to eat properly and exercise, what your blood pressure is and what it should be, what your cholesterol levels are and what you're aiming for, and what the best medicines are and how to safely and effectively use them.

  • The more you know about how to manage your condition, the better your chances of living a healthier lifestyle. Consider signing up for the CDA's free monthly e-newsletter, Diabetes Current, for the latest news, research and medical breakthroughs.

Keep up with modern medications and devices

The number and types of medications and diabetes technologies (including blood glucose meters and insulin delivery devices) keep growing at an incredibly rapid pace and are changing the diabetes landscape, says Blumer. This includes modern insulin pens and pumps that can deliver insulin continuously, resulting in excellent blood sugar control, as well as new-generation drugs.

  • To help your doctor choose the right medication for you and your specific situation, you should become aware of the pros and cons of the different medicines offered.

"Patients should feel empowered when they go to their doctors," says Blumer. "Primary-care physicians have so much on their plates and deal with everything from head to toe, so it can be hard for them to keep abreast of each and every new development for every single disease. It is so very helpful, therefore, when people living with diabetes are knowledgeable about their condition and treatment so that they can be more engaged in their care, get more out of their visits with their doctors and take a proactive approach to managing their health."

Find out what Sun Life is doing to support diabetes awareness, prevention, care and research.