Tag: Diabetes management

Theresa May, first UK Prime Minister with Type 1 diabetes

Theresa-May-640x480This week, it was announced that the previous home secretary, Theresa May is now in line to become the UK’s second female Prime Minister and the first with Type 1 diabetes.

It was in 2013 when she was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes but after medication failed to work, she then took further tests which showed she actually had Type 1 diabetes

“My very first reaction was that it’s impossible because at my age you don’t get it,” she says, reflecting the popular misconception that only younger people get diagnosed with Type 1. In fact, one in five people diagnosed with Type 1 are over 40 when they develop it. “But, then my reaction was: ‘Oh no, I’m going to have to inject’ and thinking about what that would mean in practical terms.”

After her second diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, she then went from taking two tablets a day to two injections a day and finally injecting four times daily.

Her extremely demanding role since 2010, as home secretary, combined with her diabetes management has never immobilised her ability to carry out her role. She always seems to have a very positive and yet a very blunt approach, when it comes to speaking about life with this condition.

I really like this quote from her interview with the Mail on Sunday, which clearly indicates how she feels about her diabetes and having such a demanding schedule as home secretary:

‘Type 1 diabetes, doesn’t affect how I do the job or what I do. It’s just part of life… so it’s a case of head down and getting on with it.’

Her diagnosis with diabetes was not her first encounter with the condition. She had seen it with a younger cousin of hers. She had to quickly adjust to her new life with diabetes and develop an understanding of what it meant to live with the condition on a day to day basis.

“I hadn’t appreciated the degree of management it requires and I hadn’t appreciated, for example, the paradox that while everyone assumes diabetes is about not eating sugar, if you have a hypo, then you have to take something that’s got that high glucose content.”

Keeping on top of her diabetes has also led to her breaking the very strict rule of not eating in the House of Commons.

“There was one occasion when I had been expecting to go into the Chamber later, but the way the debates were drawn up meant I had to go in at 11am and I knew I wasn’t coming out till about five. “I had a bag of nuts in my handbag and one of my colleagues would lean forward every now and then so that I could eat some nuts without being seen by the Speaker.”

Although, before her diagnosis she kept her private life quite separate from the public eye. Since, her diagnosis, her attitude towards diabetes is extremely encouraging and she doesn’t hold back when it comes to speaking about the condition.

“I don’t inject insulin at the table, but I’m quite open about it. For example, I was at a dinner last night and needed to inject and so I just said to people: ‘You do start eating, I’ve got to go and do my insulin’. It’s better to be open like that.”

She has given many interviews where she has spoken openly about her condition, she is involved in many diabetes charities and recently even wrote to schools in her Maidenhead district about Diabetes UK’s campaign to make sure schools understand the support they are legally required to give children with Type 1 diabetes.

Primarily, I think she strives to paint a picture of strength for those like myself with diabetes and to show that diabetes doesn’t hold us back and that we are still able to obtain our goals with hard work determination and regardless of this condition. You can read my post on Diabetes and not allowing it to hold me back here.

“I would like the message to get across that it doesn’t change what you can do,” she explains. “The more people can see that people with diabetes can lead a normal life doing the sort of things that other people do, the easier it is for those who are diagnosed with it to deal with it.

“The fact is that you can still do whatever you want to do, for example, on holiday my husband and I do a lot of quite strenuous walking up mountains in Switzerland, and it doesn’t stop me doing it. I can still do things like that and can still do the job.

“But, people who don’t understand it assume that the fact you have a condition means there must be something you can’t do; that it must change how you live your life in some way.

“And, of course, it does change your life in that you have to make sure you’ve got the right diet and that you’re managing your blood sugar levels, but, beyond making sure you’ve got that routine, you just get on with other things exactly the same.”

Theresa May

So does it make a difference, whether our new Prime Minister is a Type 1 diabetic or not?

Personally, I don’t think that it will make much of a difference, whether she is diabetic or not.  Is she the right person for the job? I honestly don’t know! I like that, she refuses to let her diabetes be a problem and I don’t think it will get in the way of her being able to perform as Prime Minster. She seems to manage her condition well alongside her role as home secretary, although the role of Prime Minister is going to be that much tougher. Theresa May will have a very hard job on her hands. Nevertheless, her frequent presence in the media will allow people to become more aware of diabetes and develop a better understanding of the condition. We have a very long road ahead of us and we can only remain hopeful that everything will work out in the future.

You can find the full article in the current issue of Balance magazine.

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Testing your day time basal rate

Sometimes it becomes necessary for you to be able to tweak your basal rates. During times where you maybe more active, during periods of stress and for the girls during that time of the month, you may be more prone to either lower or higher BG levels and this of course requires some adjustments in basal rates.  

Being able to adjust my rates isn’t something I’ve learnt overnight. It has taken me many years and a lot of time to understand my diabetes.Believe it or not I am still learning, when it comes to my own body and how it functions and reacts to different changes. Also I utilise my diabetes team when I can and get their input which sometimes can be a completely different perspective to my own, or most of the time they are in agreement with the changes I want to make. They are there to support you, so use them when you need them.

There are a few simple rules which I follow before I make changes to my BG. I ensure that,

  • I have not had a hypo in the last 24 hours ( of course if your having frequent hypos you probably have too much insulin in your system. You should definitely seek medical advice.)
  • I’m not feeling unwell
  • I am not due to have a set change
  • I’m not going to be more active than I normal would be.
  • I’m not more stressed than I would normally be.

 

Testing your daytime basal rate

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daytimebasal5I usually end the test with my evening meal. Look carefully at your BG readings for the day and make adjustments. If you’ve noticed an increase or decrease in BG levels, then adjust the basal rate about an hour or two before the change in BG levels were first noticed. Adjust the basal rate by 0.05 or 0.10 units/hr either up or down depending on whether your BG levels were too high or too low.

Although, these are the steps I take to make adjustments to my basal rates, please make sure you consult with your GP (diabetes team) before you make any changes to your rates.

Amina xx

Guest Post: Introducing Dr Joan St John


I’d like to introduce Dr Joan St John. She is a GP / Diabetes Specialist. She is the lead for diabetes in a practice in Brent, UK. Dr Joan also has a crucial role working with Diabetes UK as a Clinical Champion.

As a GP, I have been interested in Diabetes for many years and this has been for a number of reasons: I work in an area where there are thousands of people living with the effects of Diabetes on a daily basis, I have seen how it can affect individuals, families and communities and I am passionate about educating people to live healthier lives. I try to do this whenever I can, so this might be in the GP Practice, within my role in a local diabetes service and especially in my role as a Diabetes UK Clinical Champion. 

It’s about ‘Education, Education, Education’ and this could involve the person in front of me in the consulting room and their family member, or giving talks to community groups and also being involved in the education of healthcare Professionals.

I work in a Practice that has over 1,000 patients living with Diabetes. In our area, because of the communities that live there, more than 90% of the people affected by Diabetes have Type 2 Diabetes and less than 10% have Type 1 Diabetes.

The voluntary Clinical Champions role that I do for Diabetes UK seemed like a great opportunity to work with others to try to further improve the quality of care provided to people with Diabetes. The work has involved developing resources for people with Diabetes, giving talks to local groups and education events for healthcare professionals.


As someone who has lived with diabetes for 21 years, I’ve had the opportunity to have been in the care of many diabetes specialist.  I’ve had mostly good experiences but also some very bad ones.You can read about my experiences with good and bad doctors here.

What do you think are the qualities one should possess, when dealing with a diabetic patient? And how do you ensure continuity, when you have new GP’s in your clinic?

I think the qualities one should possess when dealing with a diabetic patient, are those that are required when dealing with any patient

  • A good pair of ears to listen with! Because I believe first and foremost it is about a conversation and dialogue between the patient and the healthcare professional.
  • Specialist knowledge is important, but although every healthcare Professional should have basic knowledge, realistically, not every healthcare professional could, or would have specialist knowledge. However, the important things are that they know where to seek the specialist knowledge, or direct the patient to a specialist for specialist care

Most GP Practices try to ensure continuity by asking Patients to wherever possible, see the same Doctor for the same, or an on-going problem. In terms of standardising care, we try to ensure that the care provided is standardised, by providing training in Diabetes to new GPs or healthcare professionals in our Surgery or Clinic.

What sort of care do new patients recieve?

It would depend on what type of Diabetes you have. Care will inevitably continue throughout your life-long journey with Diabetes, but the first steps of care will be different for the two different types of Diabetes. In brief,

If you have Type 1 Diabetes then you will need to be referred urgently for specialist care to start on Insulin. With Type 1 Diabetes your body is no longer producing Insulin and you need Insulin to survive. Following this you will need to have advice about the how to manage and live healthily with your Type 1 Diabetes and insulin treatment.

Type 2 Diabetes on the other hand usually develops slowly over a number of years. It can creep up on someone so that they don’t realise that the tiredness, infections, rashes, frequent urination or change in vision, might be due to the development of Diabetes. With Type 2 Diabetes the first steps would be to explain what it is and how it has developed. We would aim to ensure that you had some structured advice and education about how to manage the condition and advice about treatment.

With both types people will need on-going advice about the condition and treatment required, monitoring of the condition and support.

What advice do you have for people or parents of children, who have recently been diagnosed?

Do not be downhearted!

There are lots of people who live healthily with this condition and there is a lot of help available. Healthcare professionals provide some of this, but given that most of the time the person with Diabetes is the one managing their condition, in a year they may spend about 3hrs with a healthcare professional out of the 8,757hours that they have to manage the condition themselves! So Amina, blogs like yours that provide peer advice, or other social media platforms can be really helpful. There are a number of local and national Charities providing help and advice for people with both forms of Diabetes and Diabetes UK run ‘living with Diabetes days’ and many other forms of support either with online, telephone carelines, or leaflets that People of all ages can find helpful.

Some of the important aspects, that I’ve learnt about managing my diabetes are, the routine blood testing, eating healthily and exercising. These are all very essential, when managing the condition. However, another important aspect of managing this condition, is being able to psychologically deal with all the challenge’s one may encounter.

What’s support is there for the psychological and emotional impact of a new diagnosis/ongoing condition?

I am pleased to say that the psychological impact of how receiving the diagnosis, and also living with this condition affects People is becoming more recognised and acknowledged by healthcare Professionals. As a result more healthcare Professionals are receiving training in how to help someone living with Diabetes make changes that the individual themselves identifies as important to them, to enable them to live more healthily with this condition.

In addition, it is the case that more diabetes services are enlisting the help of psychologists within their teams to support and enable people living with Diabetes to deal with the challenges they face on a day to day basis.

What suggestions or advice do you have for someone who has a family history of diabetes but hasn’t yet been diagnosed?

‘Prevention, Prevention, Prevention’

This is my other passion within the field of Diabetes. I know how important it is to spread the knowledge about how to prevent and avoid developing Type 2 Diabetes because there is a lot of evidence to show that this can be avoided or the onset delayed. Currently in the UK there are about 3million People living with Diabetes, but it is predicted that there could be more than 5million people at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Having a family history of Diabetes means that your risk of developing Diabetes is increased, this is more the case with Type 2 Diabetes but there is also some increased risk of developing it with a family history of Type 1 Diabetes.

There are some exciting developments in the NHS, in that a national Diabetes prevention programme is being developed. This will be the first National diabetes prevention programme anywhere in the World. I back this initiative, as my experience has shown me that people would welcome not only knowing that they are at risk, but also receiving advice about how to avoid, or delay the development of this condition.

I hope this has given you a flavour of what I’m doing and what I’m about. Hopefully, you will invite me back another time so we can talk more about the Prevention, new developments and the management of Diabetes.

Thank you so much for asking me to be a guest on your blog Amina. Wishing you and your readers, All the best.

Dr Joan St John

GP with special interest in Diabetes and Diabetes UK Clinical Champion.


Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us your knowledge and experiences with treating diabetes and working within the diabetes community. I look forward to the second installment, where we can learn more about prevention, new developments and diabetes management.

Amina xx

MIA, Diabetes and life

Hi guys

It’s been a while since I last wrote a post. I’ve totally been MIA lately due to a lot of different things happening in my life at the moment, some things are D related and others are just the usual day to day life occurrences.  Anyway maybe we’ll get into that at another time.

In terms of my D,  one of the things I’ve been trying my best to do is to get a much tighter grip on my blood glucose (BG) levels and in turn my HbA1c. I’m pleased to say that I was able to take my HbA1c down from 7.5% to 6.4% YAY!!

As a diabetic, I know all too well that when it comes to diabetes it doesn’t affect all diabetics in the same way.  By this I mean, we can’t all use the same basal rates, count and eat the same carbohydrates and even take the same insulin doses in order for our diabetes to be well controlled. Unfortunately,  it’s a lot more complex than that.  I’ve found that with my diabetes and getting things to work it is all determined by trial and error.

What is this you ask?

I think most diabetics and even the professionals (who help us diabetics with our blood glucose (BG) levels and insulin calculations) all use this method. This method works by basically trying something out to see if it works. If it works I stick to it, if it doesn’t then I shift numbers, tweak ratios and rates etc. 

So what have I been doing to keep my dreaded and sometimes tedious BG levels under control?  Here are a few things I’ve been doing:

Exercise:

I really do believe that exercise is necessary when it comes to managing my diabetes. I usually work out at least 4 to 5 times in a week, however when I first started working out I started with a realistic and manageable goal of 2 days a week for at least half an hour at a time. I started with a little Zumba and one of my favourite Youtubers Cassey Ho.  I found that I started to enjoy it and besides it giving me a great deal of energy it also helped with my overall BG control. Initially my BG level dropped quiet frequently and I had to make sure I consumed more carbs to maintain a good level.  However my insulin requirement started to decrease across the day and I found in general I just needed to reduce my basal rates, increase my insulin to carb ratios and give myself a smaller bolus after meals. During my whole working out transition I had to use the trial and error method and a lot of consultations with my diabetic doctor to see what would work best with my BG.

Coconut water: I started to drink coconut water after I found that caffeine in general wasn’t a good option for me and my BG levels.  You can read about my experiences with caffeine and coffee in particular (here). Once I started drinking coconut water my cravings for coffee seemed to reduce a great deal. I started to find that every time I drank coconut water my energy levels were boosted. The days I didn’t have any I noticed I definitely had less energy than normal.

There are so many benefits to drinking coconut water. Here are a few of those benefits:

– It hydrates the body even better than water

– It is rich in dietary fibre, enzymes, vitamin C, minerals such as magnesium, potassium and amino acids.

– It is also very low in calories and cholesterol

– It speeds up the metabolism

– A weird thing I found out about coconut water is: If you wanted to bathe in coconut water it would be really great for your skin (hahaha never tried that one)

-It also boosts the immune system, which is a bonus for us D’s as our immune systems are generally a lot weaker. Actually since I started drinking it I haven’t had a cold.

-Because it’s a natural product it’s safe to drink during pregnancy and breastfeeding and is also safe for younger children.

Matcha Tea:  I’ve been drinking Matcha tea now for a few years. Matcha is a finely grinded green powder made from green tea and is used in Japanese tea ceremonies. It’s highly nutritional and has very high antioxidant content.  I love Matcha and in relation to my diabetes I usually try to drink it at least 3 times a week. When, I’m having a day where my BG levels are constantly dropping or if they remain higher than I’d like. It seems to stabilise my levels and usually it gets it back into a normal range.

Low carb diet: Eating a lower carb diet has really helped me manage my BGs better. I still consume carbs but I try not to have more than 300g of carbs a day.  I’ve found my BG levels are much more stable and easier to control.

Dairy: I recently discovered dairy and I aren’t the best of friends. Unfortunately I have become lactose intolerant. I noticed that whenever I consumed any dairy products, I would see a spike in my BGs. After I stopped consuming products with dairy  in it, I stopped having these spikes in my BG levels and also my digestion seems to be working a lot better.

Eating right for your blood type: I’ll have to write a separate post just on this, to explain what this is all about. In the meantime there is a book by Dr Peter J.D’Adamo which goes into detail called “Eat right for your type”.  He has also written a book based on diabetes called “Diabetes and fighting it with the blood type diet”.

De-stressing: I really do believe this is also a major factor when it comes to BG levels. Any stress these days seems to have an effect on my BG levels.  I try to take myself away from the daily stresses of life and make time for just me.  Selfish you might say but it makes for a better Amina, mummy and wife. Plus my BG levels really seem to like the little time I give back to myself. (I’d definitely suggest doing this)

Finger pricks: Finally I’ve been testing my BG levels a lot more frequently on a daily basis. I now try to test at least 8-10 times a day, sometimes more which gives a really accurate picture of what is happening with my BG levels. I was using the Dexcom sensor which I found was really beneficial when it came to my BG levels. However it was only for a short period of time and after using it I hope that it will be something that I can fund and use in the future.

I really feel that all these things put together have contributed to getting my BG levels and HbA1c in better control. However these things seem to work for me, it may not be the same for you. I also had to consult my doctor and nurses frequently when trying out these options. I’m always willing to try new things if it means tightening my BG control. I’d love to hear of anything which you’ve found helps you in your overall diabetes control.

Thanks for stopping by

Amina xx