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Living with Diabetes

 

Diabetic girl leading healthy lifestyle

Daily care

Whatever diabetes you have, it is very important that you come to terms with it and take responsibility for your every day care. The more you understand your condition and how it affects you, the better you will be able to control it.
Much of the daily care involves trying to keep blood sugar levels from going too high (hyperglycaemia) or too low (hypoglycaemia). Click the links for more information on these.

Most diabetics can monitor their own blood sugar levels at home with one of the many blood glucose systems available. We sell a glucose testing kit on this website, to buy or for more information click here.

A normal glucose level should be between 4-6mmol/l before meals and less than 7.8 mmol/l after meals. People with diabetes should aim for a reading of 4-7mmol/l before meals or during the day and 5-9mmol/l  90 minutes after meals.

On average you should test your blood glucose levels 3-4 times a day, and it is highly recommended to test your levels before meals, then 2 hours afterwards, this will indicate how the meal has affected your levels. If you are ill, under stress or you have changed your diet or exercise levels then you should carry out additional glucose tests. If you don’t feel quite right and your not sure why you should carry out a test as well. Your doctor will help and advise you find a blood glucose-testing regime, which is best, suited for you.

Regular ketone checking is also important to prevent a potentially serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. If you have a severe lack of insulin then the body cannot use glucose for energy and ketones can build up in the body. If not treated this can be life threatening. You can test for the presence of ketones with some blood glucose monitors or with a urine test, we have these tests available on this website to purchase click here.

After showering always check your feet for any signs of ulcers, sores or infections. Problems can spread quickly so early diagnosis is important to prevent complications.

For more information on these complications click here.

Check ups

To help you look after and control your diabetes you will have a team of people available, these will include your GP, specialised nurses, consultants and dietitians. Your doctor will want you to have regular check-ups and its very important to attend. At these check ups your doctor will check your glucose levels, including a HbA1c test to show how well diabetes has been controlled over the previous months. If you have a high HbA1c level this means your blood glucose level has been consistently high over recent weeks and your diabetes treatment plan will need to be looked at.

Your doctor will also want to check your blood pressure and weight. You will then have an annual test that in addition to the routine tests might include a blood test to check  cholesterol levels and kidney function. The doctor might also carry out a feet and eye examination.

As diabetes can cause poor circulation and/or numbness in the feet, it is important that you maintain good foot care and always wear comfortable shoes. If you develop any ulcers, corns or calluses on your feet you should seek advice from your doctor or chiropodist, never treat them yourself.

Checking urine for albumin is also an important part of diabetes management. Albumin is a protein that is present in the blood. There is normally only small amounts of albumin found in urine but if the kidneys are not working properly large amounts leak into urine. We sell urine analysis tests on our website which detect the presence of protein in urine. However, it will not tell you which protein is present so if you do have protein in your urine you will need to visit your doctor who may carry out more specific tests. To buy our urine analysis tests click here.

Diet and exercise

If you are overweight diabetes can be more difficult to control so you will need to begin to watch what you eat and follow a healthy balanced diet. If you have diabetes it is also important that you eat regular meals and include a wide variety of foods. You should limit the amount of salt you have, as too much salt can cause high blood pressure. You should also eat fewer fried, fatty, processed foods (to reduce your risk of high cholesterol) and eat fewer sweet foods.  It is recommended that you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, at least 5 portions a day.

If you smoke you should certainly give up, as smoking is dangerous to a diabetic. You should also take regular moderate exercise. You can drink alcohol, but as with everyone, only in moderation and you should not binge drink. However, you should remember that alcohol lowers blood glucose and if you are a bit drunk you may be less aware of ‘hypo’ symptoms. If drinking you should ensure you have a meal before and snack while drinking. You should also take an additional glucose test before going to bed and have a bedtime snack.

Exercise is important part in controlling blood glucose. Our muscles use glucose for energy so the more we use the more we improve insulin sensitivity. Exercise is also important in keeping your weight at an ideal level, you should aim for 150 minutes exercise per week.

Can I drive if I am diabetic?

If you are taking insulin for diabetes for more than 3 months then you must inform the DVLA, you must also tell them if any complications from diabetes develops that affects your driving ability. You will also need to tell your insurance company,  if you are not sure ask your doctor.

Can I go on holiday?

Having diabetes should not stop you going on holiday but depending on where you are going planning ahead will help avoid any potential problems. Make sure you have your medical ID and a letter from your GP stating the medication you are on and require. When planning your holiday you need to think about travel insurance, food and any medicines that may be required. Ensure you carry plenty of snacks as you never know how long delays could be and take plenty of spare medical supplies.

Will diabetes affect my employment?

It is unlawful for an employer to operate a blanket ban on recruitment of people with diabetes and if you have diabetes you will have legal protection in the workplace under the disability discrimination law. People with diabetes may not describe their condition as a disability but this law is there to help and protect you. It is advisable that you tell your employer that you have diabetes so someone can help you if you have a hypo or require medical help.

If you have insulin dependent diabetes then there are a few jobs that carry restrictions, these include the army, police, ambulance driver, fire service, pilot, cabin crew or any job that involves you carrying passengers.

Diabetes and pregnancy

If you have diabetes and are planning on having a baby then you should discuss this with your diabetes specialist to ensure your diabetes is in control. You will also need to closely monitor your levels especially during the first 8 weeks to reduce the risk of birth defects. You should take a higher dose of folic acid. For more information on pregnancy and diabetes click here.

Famous people living with diabetes

Thousands of people in the U.K. have diabetes and the vast majority live a normal, healthy life.  Theresa May became the first world leader with type 1 diabetes.  In an interview Mrs May said: “I am a type one diabetic. That means when I eat, I have to inject insulin, which I do.

“I will be injecting myself four or five times a day… You just get into a routine. You depend on that insulin and you just build that routine into your daily life. The crucial thing to me is being a diabetic doesn’t stop you from doing anything.”

Ex-Footballer Gary Mabbutt has type 1 diabetes and it never stopped him from reaching the top level of the game. He enjoyed a long career for Tottenham as their captain and he also represented England on many occasions. Hollywood actress Halle Berry who has been a Bond girl has type 1 diabetes and Olympic Gold medallist Sir Steven Redgrave and Hollywood actor Tom Hanks have type 2 diabetes.