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DIABETES

A large number of people in the United Kingdom have diabetes (recent estimates are over 2.3 million) this number is growing rapidly and nearly half a million people have diabetes and do not even know it. If diabetes isn’t treated, it can cause long-term health problems because the high glucose levels in the blood can damage other parts of your body. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, find out about what treatment options are available.

Diabetes is a condition in which a person can have a high level of blood glucose (sugar) which if not brought under control can negatively impact quality of life.

Think of high blood glucose levels like really sticky sugary blood. This stickiness means that your blood can get stuck when it gets to small vessels (like those in your feet and eyes). When blood gets stuck it clots and the part of the body that was supposed to get this blood can be damaged.

When this sticky blood gets trapped in larger vessels you are at risk of heart attacks (where parts of your heart do not get enough blood), strokes (where parts of your brain do not get enough blood) and heart failure (where your heart does not pump blood out very well). Risk is higher when combined with high Cholesterol (think of lumps of butter or lard blocking your blood vessels along with sticky blood) and high blood pressure.

Diabetes can be managed effectively and many people with diabetes lead healthy and active lives.

TYPES

Diabetes (or more properly diabetes mellitus) is a condition in which a person has a high blood sugar (glucose) level. There are 2 types:

TYPE 1

This is where a person’s body produces cells that damage the pancreas (the organ that produces insulin to reduce sugar in the blood) and so cannot manage their own blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes most commonly occurs at a younger age.

TYPE 2

This is where a person’s body becomes resistant to insulin. This is usually linked to increased weight (or waist circumference) and low levels of exercise.

TOP TEN TIPS

1.Stop Smoking

If you smoke or use tobacco, STOP! Local services can help you as the health benefits start immediately and last a lifetime. Smoking not only causes cancer, it also makes your diabetes worse.

2.Monitor your feet and your eyes

If checked regularly further damage may be prevented to your feet and your eyes. You should have both reviewed by the health service every year.  If in doubt contact your local healthcare professional to arrange a review.

3.Flu vaccine

In autumn get a yearly vaccination. Being vaccinated last year won’t protect you this year. Getting a flu vaccination doesn’t give you the flu but can protect you from it.

4.Exercise a little more

Walking a few more steps (10%) each day could make a difference, reducing your
blood glucose (sugar).

5.Use blood glucose test results

If you test, make sure you understand how to use the result; if not then you are pricking yourself with little benefit.

6.Take your medication

If you are prescribed medication, take it, if not you are risking your health. If you are worried about taking your medication speak to your doctor or nurse.

7.Reduce your blood pressure

Eat less salt, exercise regularly and eat more fruit and vegetables.

8.Eat sensibly

Eat fresh food (not prepackaged) where possible. Eat five fruit or vegetable portions per day. Count your calories to understand how much you actually eat and if this is right for you.

9.Reduce your blood fat (cholesterol/lipid) levels

Eat less fat, exercise a little more and take your medication. If you smoke, ask for help
to stop.

10.Sensible alcohol consumption

Maximum – Men 21 units per week, Women 14 units per week (see bottles for units per drink). Do not forget to count the calories from your alcohol into your daily intake.

MANAGING DIABETES

Education

Information and education is key to empowering people to manage their health. We have developed EMPOWER structured diabetes education to help people better manage their conditions, creating better outcomes for patients by increasing awareness.

There are two EMPOWER programmes: T2n for people who are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and T2i for people who are established on insulin therapy.

Our dedicated clinical educator team support patients and healthcare professionals in better understanding diabetes and best practice management.

There are numerous resources to learn about diabetes – we recommend any websites accredited by local health services.
Contact Us if you could like some links to further resources.

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycaemia) Plan

Diabetes is normally about high blood sugar, however Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), where your blood sugar level decreases below normal can happen, especially when you are treated with insulin or diabetes drugs that increase the body’s own production of insulin.
Learn to identify your particular signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, which may include weakness, shakiness, a sweaty or clammy feeling, fast heart rate, confusion, dizziness, changes in vision and lack of coordination. If you feel this happening then you can treat with 15-20 grams of pure glucose (the amount found in 3-5 glucose tablets). A sugary drink is often used such as Lucozade as an effective means
of treating Hypoglycaemia yourself. You should then check your blood glucose 15 minutes later to make sure your blood glucose level has returned to normal. If it hasn’t, treating again is generally recommended.

Diet & Exercise

You should look for advice on what you can eat to better control your diabetes. The old advice ‘all things in moderation’ is not too far wrong. We should understand what we eat and what is good or bad for us.

Remember the recommended intake for an average adult male is 2500 calories per day, and for an average adult female 2000 calories per
day. This should include a variety of food including 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

As a very rough guide these are good for you: lean meat, fish, fresh
fruit and vegetables. Less good for you are sugars and processed carbohydrates.

Anything you can do to increase your level of exercise will help to
better control your diabetes. When you use your muscles they burn energy helping to remove glucose from your blood. Depending on
your age and your general physical health, exercise may include
going to a gym, running, swimming or increasing the number of steps you take by a small number each day.

Medication

There are a wide range of medications prescribed for people with diabetes ranging from Oral medications (taken by mouth) to injections (commonly insulin). We are not going to discuss medications here, but we suggest that you understand what medications you are taking, how they work and why you are taking them. This enables you to better understand your body, your diabetes and how medication may be able to help.