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What It’s Really Like To Live With Type 1 Diabetes

What It’s Really Like To Live With Type 1 Diabetes

We all need glucose to give our cells the energy they require to function so that the brain, heart, and lungs all work perfectly. Our bodies will manufacture enough insulin (produced by the pancreas) so that the blood glucose or blood sugar can get into those cells. But people with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) cannot make that insulin, so they have to inject it to help the body work properly. But it does not always go according to plan. When they have too much glucose or too little, there are serious health consequences.

I remember vividly when we had friends over for lunch on a very hot summer’s day. One of them has Type 1 diabetes and he had just been given a new, cutting edge insulin pump. But the pump was not correctly adjusted. He nearly collapsed on the way home and fortunately, his wife was driving. She later told me that he could have died. The irony is that he is a doctor himself!

Let me explain what an insulin pump does. First, it removes the need to have multiple injections of insulin on a daily basis. Second, it has to work perfectly because in many ways it mimics the pancreas. Otherwise, the diabetes gets out of control and may endanger one’s life, as happened with my friend.

Now, if I told you that people with this type of diabetes have to get through each day by checking and preventing spikes or slides in blood sugar, you would probably raise an eyebrow or two, but not give it much thought. So, here are 5 things that diabetics have to constantly monitor and prevent on an almost 24/7 basis.

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1. They have to constantly check their blood sugar

They have a blood glucose meter which tests their levels of glucose. But they have to do this between 4 and 8 times a day! They have to do this when they change medication, exercise or when they have gone through a stressful period. They have to do it very often and it means they must always carry the monitor wherever they go. Just a pinprick. But there are no holidays here. Anytime their routine changes, they have to check.

2. They have to know all about blood sugar levels

They know that when they get a reading of 70 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL), they may have a dangerously low blood sugar count, aka hypoglycaemia. They may already know because of the alarming symptoms such as shaking, sweating, weakness and palpitations. If their levels skyrocket, they are in danger of going into a diabetic coma.

They know their levels change according to the time of day, before and after eating and, of course, at bedtime. Generally, according to the Mayo Clinic, daytime levels should be in the 80-120 md/dL range while bedtime scores should not go over 140 md/dL.

Just have a look here at the chart which explains the target range for blood sugar levels. It depends on many other factors such as age, weight, sex and general health.

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3. They have to be extra vigilant when eating out

If you think that diabetics are fussy eaters, think again! They are just trying to avoid a crisis which may in turn save them from going into a coma or fainting.

Because they are following a regular diet where they are watching out for carbohydrates, sugar and starch in vegetables and fruit, they have to careful when eating out. They have to focus on vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals but low in starch. They have to watch out for too many carbs as they turn to sugar in their blood. Typical vegetables that are good for them are tomatoes, spinach, onions, asparagus, peppers, and celery. Generally, they have to eat the right proteins and avoid processed foods.

4. They can exercise but they still have to be careful

They have to do another juggling act here! If they exercise (and it is highly recommended as it prevents other health issues), they have to balance insulin with the snacks they eat and the effect the activity has on their blood sugar levels. It also depends what time of the day they exercise and when they eat. The great thing is that physical activity does help to reduce blood glucose levels and reduces depression.

The inspiring story of Jay Cutler, quarterback with the Chicago Bears, who has T1D, has helped both kids and adults to live a healthy life which includes physical exercise.

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5. They are really hopeful about the future

And now the good news! The latest insulin pumps are much more sophisticated than they were a few years ago when my friend had his installed.

There are no wires and it is so small that many people never spot it. It communicates with a tiny computer which controls the insulin input. The machine needs a new pod of insulin every 3 days. It can be worn on the abdomen, leg or underarm. Diabetics can even get an extra dose of fast acting insulin just before mealtimes to take care of any carbs they will be consuming. There is even software in the computer which can calculate the right dose before eating.

It is fascinating to read about the latest research reported on the American Diabetes Association website which is moving towards making life a lot easier for people with T1D.

“I think I can, I think I can… I know I can, I know I can… learn to count the carb content of everything that passes my lips; carry monitor, glucose tabs, insulin pump/pen and needles at all times; learn to inject myself throughout the day; navigate the American healthcare system; and ward off the feeling that I’m somehow being punished. We all can. I’ve learned a ton since my diagnosis in 2003. With diabetes, you really do learn something new every day. “– AmyTenrich, Editor, DiabetesMine

There are 3 million people in America living with T1D, and 80 new cases are diagnosed every day. Myths and legends about diabetics abound. One fact is obvious though – if they neglect any of these checks and balances, they are putting their health at serious risk. They may suffer nerve damage, kidney malfunctioning, high blood pressure, vision deficits, and poor skin health which can lead to tissue death. It is no exaggeration to say they have to be their own nurse, dietician and math wizard to survive!

Featured photo credit: Diabetes test/Victor via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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